Evaluation of Franz Marc’s Color Theory using Implicit Testing Procedures

In: Art & Perception

In the early 20th century, the German expressionist painter Franz Marc formulated assumptions concerning the meanings of color, based on his individual sensations. He characterized the ‘cool’ blue as the ‘masculine principle’. Yellow represented the ‘feminine principle’ which he declared as ‘gentle, cheerful, and sensual’. This leaves red, the color he perceived as ‘brutal and heavy’. Here, we tested some of the color–meaning associations assumed by Franz Marc via implicit measures based on response times, using Single Category Implicit Association Tests. The participants had to classify words as belonging to one of two semantic categories (e.g., masculine or feminine) by pressing one of two response buttons. One of the semantic categories shared a response button with a hue (e.g., masculine–blue), and this button needed to be pressed whenever a color patch was presented on the screen. The results showed that response times were faster when related hues and meaning categories (according to Marc’s assumptions) shared the same response button, compared to when unrelated hues and meaning categories were assigned to the same button. The pattern of response times was compatible with the associations of blue–masculine, yellow–feminine, blue–cool and yellow–gentle as proposed by Marc. In addition, our data indicate associations of yellow–warm and red–warm, which were not explicitly formulated by Franz Marc. However, the proposed red–brutal association was not confirmed.

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