Tuesday, 3 August 2010

200 years since Goethe published his Theory of Colours (Farbenlehre)

It has been quiet on this blog, despite a half-finished post on a fascinating talk on colour by Julian Bell and Frances Spalding at Charleston, home of Vanessa Bell and friends. I made notes for the blog, managed to have brief chats with both authors and then had to rush to the next event: a perfect evening at Glyndebourne Opera House with a mutual friend of mine and Julian Bell's. A week later he was dead, stopping everything it its tracks for a while, and the next time I saw the erudite Julian Bell was at our friend's funeral.

The post will be completed, but for now a few words on a couple of exhibitions on the 200th anniversary of the first complete edition of Goethe's 1400 page strong Farbenlehre. Two exhibitions are currently celebrating this event (there might be others, please let me know if you hear of others). I have not been to either but will try and go to the one in Weimar. Judging by their web-presence they both look well worth a visit. The first one is at the Goethe Nationalmuseum in Weimar and focuses on original material, such as drawings and objects made or used by Goethe and followers. Sadly, there doesn't seem to be an exhibition catalogue accompanying this.


There aren't many images on the official website, but a pdf file with more information can be downloaded (in German). Some images can be seen here as part of a review in the FAZ (with thanks to Jochen Menge for pointing this out to me). Here is an example:

Johann Wolfgang Goethe: »Zwei Skizzen von Prisma und Linse«, 1796/1806
© Klassik Stiftung Weimar
The second exhibition that has come to my attention is this one at the Goetheanum near Basel and seems to focus more on the applicability of Goethe's work on colour. It looks, as its titles says, experimental and playful, with the aim to give a first impression of Goethe's writings on colour. This exhibition is accompanied by a catalogue, published in Switzerland and as yet not easy to get hold of. However, the website says that the exhibition will travel (there is hope for me yet), so hopefully the catalogue will as well. Both exhibitions clearly aim to appeal to a younger audience, offering events and talks for children as well as adults. The Basel exhibition also has a Facebook page.


Installation illustrating coloured shadows.
Photo: Johannes Onneken (from the Facebook group "Experiment Farbe")

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