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Color Theories from Western Europe and the United States in the Writings of Ivan Kliun

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This article focuses on manuscripts on color theory by the lesser-known Russian artist Ivan Kliun (1873-1943), who, in the early twentieth century, worked together with leaders of the Russian avant-garde in the cultural centers of Moscow and St. Petersburg and made a significant contribution to the development of abstract art.Kliun belongs to a group of Russian avant-garde artists who endeavored to discover entirely new methods for investigating artworks, to develop art theory backed by science, and to renew art. He faced these great challenges by scientifically researching the various elements of art such as color, form, texture, light, space, and the principles of their combination in a composition in order to illustrate which aspects of a work of art have an impact on the viewer and his psyche.Kliun left behind a large body of writings, many of which are still unpublished. These writings contain his own reflections as well as excerpts from various scholarly treatises on color theory composed by international scientists. Kliun’s manuscripts offer a summary of relevant insights into the physical properties of color, tenets of contrast, and the sensual effects of color from works by Wilhelm Ostwald, Hermann von Helmholtz, Leopold Richtera, Matthew Luckiesh, and Albert H. Munsell.Kliun’s writings reveal that, in the 1920s, the studies of color theory in Russia were based on the same sources as those abroad. Russian avant-garde artists and scientists followed the ongoing developments in color research and gained access to the latest foreign publications.

Affiliations: 1: PhD Candidate, Free University of BerlinGermany


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