Artist Mary Gartside, the Woman Who Redefined Color

A artista Mary Gartside, a Mulher que redefiniu a cor

Five years before Johann Wolfgang von Goethe's Theory of Colors, English artist Mary Gartside published her own challenge to Isaac Newton's ideas – yet, as Kelly Grovier writes, Mary Gartside disappeared from history.In 1805, a little-known English artist and amateur painter did what no woman had done before: she published a book on the subject of color theory. Although few details of Mary Gartside's life and career survive, her unprecedented volume An Essay on Light and Shade, on Colors, and on Composition in General reveals evidence of her extraordinary creative genius.

Mary Gartside | P55.ART

Modestly presented, Gartside's study is accompanied by a series of startlingly abstract images unlike any previously produced by a writer or artist of any movement. At first glance, one could easily confuse Gartside's eight watercolor "stains" with enlarged floral landscapes that anticipate the pieces by American artist Georgia O'Keeffe, who became famous more than 100 years later.

Georgia O'keeffe | P55.ART

The stains, neither fragrant flowers plucked from the real world nor imaginary flowers unfolding in the mind, Gartside's abstract stains, went beyond the borders of the self, a whole century before non-figurative painting became established in Wassily Kandinsky's best-known canvases. , Kazimir Malevich and Piet Mondrian. Gartside's abstract patches served a paradoxically precise theoretical function that belies their amorphous beauty. Art historian Alexandra Loske explains in her recent study Colour: A Visual History that the hues, "white", "yellow", "orange", "green", "blue", "violet" and "crimson", we show various degrees of saturation.

 Mary Gartside | P55.ART

Gartside's aim was to illustrate the harmonies and contrasting hues of primary and secondary colors in a more organic, and perhaps less scientifically far-fetched, manner than the schematic color wheels of its famous forefathers. Although their spots may have, as TS Eliot writes in a poem in Burnt Norton of 1936, "the appearance of flowers that are observed", in fact they sought, generations before, to isolate the luminous energy that invigorates our perception of all things: the color. "Colours," the Romantic essayist Leigh Hunt gleefully noted in the 1840s, "are the smiles of nature. What is clear from Gartside's pioneering studies is that no theorist ever listened more closely to the laughter of colors than she did. "There is no other example of representing color systems that is as inventive and radical as Gartside's color patches," writes Loske.

 Mary Gartside | P55.ART Magazine

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