Colour perception is a difficult and little understood problem, which seems to defy even the most ingenious mathematical expressions.
van Gogh exploits the psychological capacities of colors to arouse emotions
Our sensation is the most intense where two extremes are juxtaposed. Van Gogh’s Night Cafe composes colors described as “warm,” which are generally associated with such sensations and emotions as energy, joy, love and festivity. In his letter to his brother Theo, van Gogh considers the work as “…one of the ugliest (pictures) I have done… I have tried to express the terrible passions of humanity by means of red and green.”
Contrast this with the entry onPicasso and his “Blue Period,” where the paintings arouse emotions more usually associated with “cold” colors, such as sadness and a withdrawn quality.
Simultaneous contrast causes the white around the blue to seem yellow. Similarly, white light around a yellow beam will seem blue. Such effects are simple to demonstrate with a light beam and some colored filters. Finally, for blue alongside yellow, the blue makes the yellow more yellow and the yellow makes the blue more blue. Simultaneous contrast has its greatest effect for adjacent complementary colors.
Over the years, there have been several treatises on the practice, theory and philosophical issues of painting date, and notions about the use of color.