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History of the color type theory

    Color wheel according to Johannes Itten
    Color wheel according to Johannes Itten

    From Democritus (ca. 460 – 370 BC) to the 20th century, numerous philosophers, painters, polymaths and scientists of all kinds have dealt with the phenomenon of “color” in a wide variety of ways. Depending on their field of activity, their focus was on the creation, perception, classification, processing or effect of colors. They have all influenced the development of color theory from different perspectives. In the 20th century, the theory of color types developed on the basis of color theory (= the theory of systems for organizing colors).

    Johannes Itten

    The pioneer of color theory was Johann Itten (1888-1967). The Swiss painter, art theorist and educator discovered during his teaching activities and work with his students that they preferred to use colors that best suited their appearance when painting.

    In his harmony lessons, his advanced students rejected his predetermined color harmonies. He then had them draw some on paper themselves and left the room for a while. When he returned to the classroom, the students had placed their results on the floor. To Itten’s surprise, he was able to immediately match each sheet to the respective art student, as the painted color harmonies corresponded to the students’ outward appearance.
    The color harmonies and photos of the students have been preserved in Itten’s book “Art of Color”.

    Through further experiments, he discovered that some people only have a small color range, others a very large one, and that there are all conceivable intermediate levels. He also studied the effect of colors and contrasting colors. This resulted in his “seven color contrasts”. Each of these contrasts has its own unique effect, which we will look at in more detail later.
    Based on all these findings, Johannes Itten developed a color theory in which all people can be assigned to one of 4 color types: Spring, Summer, Autumn and Winter. Spring and fall are warm types, while summer and winter are cool types. Itten’s astonishing findings were taken up again and developed further at the Fashion Academy in California at the beginning of the 60s of the 20th century.