Here’s some Friday fun for you: British artist Arthur Buxton takes famous paintings from the likes of Van Gogh and Monet and Gauguin and strips them down to their most basic color composition. The result, the bright little pie charts you see below, show each painting’s top five colors. Go ‘head, test how well you paid attention in art history class. Try to guess which painter’s work is on the left, and right:
[Left: Monet; Right: Mattise]
[Left: Gauguin; Right: Van Gogh — See which painting each pie chart represents, below*]
Not that cinchy, eh? And it gets exponentially harder when you try to figure out the identities of the individual paintings. If it makes you feel any better, we got precisely one right: Starry Night (top left in the Van Gogh series), which, of course, had to be blue, blue, blue, blue, and blue.
Interesting to take a step back though, and scan the charts as a whole. You get an incredible sense of how these painters used color. Compare the visualization of Matisse, a master of bright, bold hues, to that of Monet, who tended toward a gauzier palette. The charts might be something of an oversimplification. (Imagine if Buxton turned his hand to Courbet or Millet; the pies would look like turds.) But for a lot of artists, they provide a charming — and challenging — way to look at old art anew.
Prints of the color wheels are on sale for 40 pounds (about $66). Contact Buxton for more info.
Answers to the Van Gogh visualization, from left to right: 1.Starry Night 2.Self portrait 3.Van Gogh’s Room at Arles 4.Bandaged 5.Reaper 6.Church at Arles 7.Self Portrait with Bandaged Ear 8.Sunflowers 9.Portrait of Dr. Gachet 10.The Night Café 11.Coal Barges 12.Wheat Fields 13.Sheaves of Wheat 14.The Sower 15.Old Man in Sorrow 16.The Exercise Yard 17.Mulberry tree 18.Pollard Willows 19.Chair 20.The Potato Eaters 21.Shoes 22.Almond tree 23.Thatched Cottage in Cordeville 24.Noon Rest from Work 25.Scull with Cigarette 26.A Field of Yellow Flowers 27.Irises 28. Field with Cypress
*Buxton doesn’t have cheat sheets for all the painters just yet, but we’ll be sure to update the post when he does.
[Up top: Abstracted versions of the covers of British Vogue from the last 10 years]