Sun, 02/17/2013 – Sun, 08/14/2016

Fuller Gallery

Light-colored palettes have appeared in American art since the middle of the nineteenth century, when painters rendered sunlight to signify God’s presence in nature. During the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, American tonalists captured delicate nuances of light using “blond” palettes. In their winter landscapes, light reflected off of the white snow, symbolizing the purity of the United States as the new Promised Land.

After the rise of modernism in the early twentieth century, the concept of the pale monochromatic palette was no longer seen as necessarily about spirituality or light but a formal issue in which subtle shades related to one another. Beginning in the mid-1950s, postmodern artists explored low-key palettes with minimal or no composition—a reaction against the dramatic gestures of the abstract expressionists.

Ernest LawsonWinter Landscape, 1910/20, oil on canvas. Allentown Art Museum, 1961
Featured image: Ryotaro Tokita (b. 1930), Untitled, undated, oil on canvas.