Paul Gauguin’s Day of the Gods, 1894, painted while that artist was living in Tahiti, displays many of these color issues. Has he used local color for any of these objects? The sky is blue, clouds white, distant beach yellow, and flesh of the women bronze in tone. Perceptual color? If in shadow, the trees’ trunks may have appeared gray to him; the women’s white and orange dresses may have been that vibrant in the sunshine. Expressive color? There are many areas where the artist used color for the sake of color without disegno esterno.




The beach in the foreground has pink sand, and the water at bottom is a mixture of complimentaries: orange against blue, red against green, and violet against yellow. He set warm colors against cool colors for dramatic effect. While these colors are totally unrelated to true water, they provide dynamic interest to the bottom of the painting, thereby defining the exotic nature of the tropical landscape. 

 We must keep in mind with the above painting that Gauguin’s audience was back home in France. Therefore, he could freely use expressive color from his disegno interno to capture the poetic tone of the South Pacific. His creative objective was to present a virtual reality or dream image which would contrast as markedly as possible from visual realities back home.



Remember: red, orange, and yellow are warm or hot colors. They expressively radiate heat and energy. Cool colors are subtle; warm colors are vibrant therefore visible from a distance. Scenes of the blue sea and green nature are relaxing. Edward Munch employed this color contrast in The Scream, 1893. While the figure stands upon a bridge over the water (blue), the volatile and hot red/orange/yellow define the heated, anxiety-ridden environment in which the figure stands. The constant juxtaposition of hot and cold results in an uneasy pictorial surface where good and bad, peace and violence, harmony and aggression coexist. Due to Munch’s color choices, the narrative becomes empowered.