PURPLE color – history and values

PURPLE color – history and values. Article by the Executive Director of RUNWAY MAGAZINE Guillaumette Duplaix.

Basically, PURPLE is a mixture of two colors: RED and BLUE which creates a nuance distributed in a chromatic circle between purples and blues.

Pantone declared color of the year 2022


PANTONE 17-3938 Very Peri

(Pantone 17-3938 TCX)

#6667ab – RVB 102 103 171 – CMJN 69% 62% 0% 0% – T 239° S 40% L 67% – Bleu

Since 2000, Pantone has defined the color of the year. Interesting concept but not always followed. We observed it with GREEN in particular, declared color of the year in 2017 but which really took off in 2021.

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History & Symbolism of PURPLE

Isaac Newton imagines the “crucial experiment”: after passing through a first prism, he obtains rays of different colors and directions, and places on the passage of one of them (the PURPLE) a second prism – he there is no replenishment of white light, the light remains purple.

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Do you know Colorimetry?

Colorimetry is an international discipline, where the American Section of the International Commission on Illumination has been instrumental. Colorimetry rigorously defines purples as the exact equivalent of “Purple”.

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The International Commission on Illumination (CIE) is an international organization dedicated to light, illumination, color and color spaces. It was founded in Berlin in 1913 and is currently based in Vienna, Austria.

This commission was created to rationally characterize the colors of light as seen by the human brain. To do this, she conducted systematic color comparison experiments by many observers in order to define an average observer.

These experiments have been interpreted within the framework of the physical definition of lights as electromagnetic waves containing wavelengths between approximately 380 and 780 nanometers (billionths of a meter). This interval corresponds to the different colors of the rainbow between violet and red or, more precisely, to the colors of the decomposition of white light by the prism. A wavelength therefore characterizes a pure color (a hue in a Light Saturation Hue system) while its luminous intensity characterizes its luminosity or value.

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The French standard “General Methodical Classification of Colors” distinguishes between violets and purples, where a 2002 Australian study shows that English-speaking respondents only distinguish one “Purple” field. It appears that the color field of the word “Purple” is not that of purple.

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The ambiguity of color terms in the color field of violets, purples, lilacs and mauves is also true in other European languages such as English and Spanish.

History of PURPLE

PURPLE made its first appearances during Antiquity. It is attested in French in 1520 in a description of the power and pride of Emperor Heliogabalus.

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The best way to get it was to use a very large amount of molluscs. Approximately 12,000 molluscs were used to create 1.5 grams of tincture.

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It was in the 19th century that we discovered a less expensive and, above all, synthetic way of creating PURPLE.

In 1856, a young British chemist named William Henry Perkin attempted to make a synthetic quinine. His experiments instead produced an unexpected residue, which turned out to be the first synthetic aniline dye, a deep purple color called mauveine, or abbreviated simply mauve (the dye being named after the lighter color of the mallow flower ( mauve).

William Henry Perkin developed an industrial process, built a factory, and produced the dye by the ton, so that almost anyone could wear mauve. It was the first in a series of modern industrial dyes that completely transformed both the chemical industry and fashion.

William Henry Perkins was initially working on a cure for malaria.

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The Color Directory of the Society of Chrysanthemists (1905) indicated that the “Purple” of the English or “Deep purple” of the Americans should rather be called “Violet pourpré”.

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This directory gave many shades of VIOLET, with references to flowers of similar colors, and to the names under which they were found in dyers and color merchants.

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Concerning PURPLE, Maurice Déribéré distinguishes a narrow field at the end of the colors of the rainbow between indigo and purple, with a distribution of the fields of the other color names very different from that retained. This work was written before the publication of the French standard, Maurice Déribéré was director of the review Couleurs in 1969.

His passion for color led him to take an interest in multiple subjects around this initial theme: he pursued research in particular, on the physiological influence of light and color on man, on the role of color in ancient and Far Eastern traditions. He has written books on technical processes relating to colors, as well as on colors in the ancient and traditional worlds.

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VIOLET and “purple” have had a long history of association with royalty, originally because the dye Tyrian purple was extremely expensive in antiquity. The emperors of Rome wore purple togas, as did the Byzantine emperors.

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In the sixth century BC, Cyrus the Great, founder of the Persian Empire, made purple his color (Image: WikiCommons)

In the Middle Ages, PURPLE was worn by bishops and university professors and was often used in art as the color of the robes of the Virgin Mary.

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In Christianity in particular, VIOLET represents the union between Man and the Holy Spirit. It also represents authority and wisdom.

Pope Innocent III defined around 1200 the PURPLE as a badge of penance. The purple color is worn by all the clergy in liturgical dress during periods of fasting such as Christmas Lent or Advent (4 Sundays before Christmas) and Lent.
It is sometimes used by brotherhoods of penitents for their coats.

In the Roman Catholic and Anglican religions, it is also worn by the bishop in choir dress (cassock, camail, ring bearing an amethyst and skullcap).

From the 16th century to the beginning of the 19th century, the blue-violet color of Catholic episcopal vestments was obtained by a mixture of two dyes, natural indigo and cochineal carmine. It was only under the pontificate of Pius XI that the shade of VIOLET in use at the papal court was fixed by decree. The shade chosen is a purple rich in red and verging on mauve.

PURPLE was used for Advent and Lent.

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In Chinese painting, the color purple represents “unity transcending the duality of Yin and yang” and “the ultimate harmony of the universe”.

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In Hinduism and Buddhism, VIOLET is associated with the crown chakra.

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The PURPLE and the PAINTERS

In the 19th century, poets and painters, symbolists and impressionists, appreciated the subtle tones of VIOLET.

The first cobalt VIOLET, the intensely red-violet cobalt arsenate, was highly toxic. Although it persisted in some paint lines well into the 20th century, it was replaced by less toxic cobalt compounds such as cobalt phosphate. Cobalt violet appeared in the second half of the 19th century, expanding the palette of artists. Today Cobalt Ammonium Phosphate, Cobalt Lithium Phosphate and Cobalt Phosphate are available for use by artists.

Paul Signac (1863–1935)
Cobalt VIOLET was used by this French landscape painter. Paul Signac gave birth to pointillism.

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Paul Signac – Harmony

Claude Monet (1840–1926)
French painter and founder of Impressionism.
Claude Monet painted above all a controlled nature: his own garden, his water lilies, his pond and his bridge. From 22/11 to 15/12/1900, a new exhibition was dedicated to him. About ten versions of the Waterlily Pond were presented there. This same exhibition was organized in New York in 1901. The exhibition, named Les Nymphéas, series of waterscapes, finally opened on 6/04/1909. Comprising forty-eight canvases dated from 1903 to 1908.

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Georges Seurat (1859–1891)
French painter and draftsman. He was the inventor of the so-called divisionist technique also called optical painting or chromo-luminarism, and more commonly pointillism.
Georges Seurat took part in the eighth and last exhibition of the Impressionists in 1886. Seurat presented “A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte”.

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Vincent van Gogh (1853–1890)
Vincent van Gogh (1853–1890) was an avid student of color theory. He used PURPLE in many of his paintings of the 1880s, including his iris paintings and the swirling, mysterious sky in his starry night paintings, and often combined it with his complementary color, yellow.

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Henri Matisse, (1869 – 1954)
The Woman in the Purple Coat by Henri Matisse.
Henri Matisse was a French painter, draftsman, engraver and sculptor. A major figure of the 20th century, his influence on the art of the second half of this century was considerable through the use of stylization, synthesis and color as the sole subject of painting. He was the unifier of Fauvism.

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Pablo Ruiz Picasso (1881 – 1973)
Bust of a Woman in Purple Costume by Pablo Picasso
Pablo Picasso was a Spanish painter, draftsman, sculptor and engraver who spent most of his life in France.

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PURPLE and Communication

Some brands have even adopted purple for their logo, such as Yahoo! Milka or FedEx.

Yahoo is one of the pioneers of online search engines established in 1994. Yahoo stands for: “Yet Another Hierarchical Officious Oracle”.

The logo has evolved over the years. PURPLE is still there, but in a more current, dynamic tone.

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Milka is a Swiss chocolate brand established in 1901. The origins of the company take us to Switzerland, where the first chocolate under this name was packaged in lilac-colored packaging in 1901. The deposit and the lilac cover are deposited in 1960.

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The FedEx logo is known as one of the most commercially successful examples of the use of negative space: The noticeable white arrow between the letters “E” and “X”. At the time, it was a revolutionary approach, thanks to which the FedEx logo won more than 40 awards around the world. The “white arrow” in the logo was created by Lindon Leader. To press the arrow, Lindon Leader used two fonts: Univers 67 and Futura Bold.

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Reproduction of PURPLE

In additive synthesis PURPLE can be produced using a mixture of blue and some red:
In the RGB color model used in computer and television monitors, VIOLET is produced by mixing red and blue light, with more blue than red.

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In subtractive synthesis it is a difficult color, due to the cumulative imperfections of the inks:
In the CMYK color model used in printing, VIOLET is created with a combination of magenta and cyan pigments, with more magenta than cyan.

Even though mixing magenta with a smaller amount of cyan is supposed to produce PURPLE, process colors cannot produce vivid PURPLE.

Perfect subtractive synthesis involves block dyes, which pass all light in a range, and completely block the complementary color. But cyan and magenta pigments fall far short of this ideal; they absorb some of the light they should let through.

Magenta absorbs blue and some red, while cyan absorbs green and blue, although less than it absorbs red.

When we mix magenta with cyan, we absorb colors that we should transmit, and the result cannot be as bright as it should be.

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The PURPLE obtained by four-color process is always approximate; it is closer to cherry juice or Bordeaux.

Achieving vivid or deep PURPLE in printing requires the use of special inks. Pantone Purple and Pantone Violet offer shades of pure PURPLE for this purpose.

Example of difference between a PURPLE obtained in additive synthesis and its simulation in four-color process:

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On the left is a saturated PURPLE RGB composed of 100% blue and 50% red. On the right is this same PURPLE separated in four colors, which results in 51% cyan and 65% magenta. As we can see, the quadri separation fails to render a pure PURPLE.

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Its complementary color is a yellow, and it is often the opposite of this hue that it appears on artists’ color circles.

PURPLE & Company

Andrew Warhola, said Andy Warhol is an American artist (1928 – 1987) He is one of the main representatives of Pop Art. Andy Wharol exemplified the famous and the infamous with garish tones of dark red, orange, teal, turquoise and above all PURPLE.

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Psychedelia

The psychedelic movement appeared, alongside the hippie movement, in the 1960s when the use of LSD spread among a young population. In 1965, LSD was first banned from consumption in the United States and then in England in 1966. It reached its peak of popularity between 1967 and 1969 with psychedelic rock.

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In 1966, Timothy Leary invented the slogan: “turn on, tune in, drop out” Under the effects of LSD.

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A psychedelic era begins with its bright colors with optical effect. All the record covers, concert posters of the time offer frenetic collages, hallucinogenic colors.

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Graphic designer Wes Wilson is causing a stir with his work for San Francisco’s Filmore Auditorium known to rock fans around the world.

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Richard Avedon, photographer, has produced a superb doctored portrait of the Beatles.

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LSD will do well to provide hallucinations loaded with saturated colors, especially PURPLE.

PURPLE & Fashion

PURPLE became extremely fashionable among the nobility and upper classes in Europe, especially after Queen Victoria wore a mauveine-dyed silk dress at the Royal Exhibition of 1862.

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Before William Henry Perkin’s discovery, PURPLE was a color that only the aristocracy and the wealthy could afford to wear.

In the 18th century, PURPLE was a color worn by royalty, aristocrats and the wealthy, as well as by men and women. Good quality PURPLE cloth was expensive and beyond the reach of ordinary people.

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In the middle of the 19th century, the invention of the dye called murexide, extracted from guano, launched a fashion for purple, mauve and violet tones. This fashion engendered a rise in prices; hence the chemical research that led to the invention of the aniline dye, with considerable industrial consequences.

Remember, I was talking about designer Paul Poiret in my article on YELLOW. We also find his revolutionary palette with the famous “Chinese purple”, “chalk violet”.

American woolens

Wool weaving machines have existed in the United States since the 19th century.

The Hockanum Woolens company founded in 1848 played an important role: It began by designing woolen fabrics for Civil War uniforms, then more refined clothing for men and women.

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After several eventful scenarios, Hockanum Woolens offers in 1955, a collection of very elegant woolens called “Coast-to-Coast”.

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The “Cosat-to”Coast” line is made up of bold tones, the main ones being:
american beauty
ginger
Dalhia
purple opulence
Epsom
Charcoal gray
heavenly blue
Beige

At that time, the hockanum woolens company was no longer just a factory but a group of textile brands managed by J.P. Stevens, a textile giant who knew how to adapt to the market by offering the colors and textures that customers expected. Under the direction of hockanum woolens, it invests in fashion. Its weaving factories produce structured forms of feminine outfits inspired by Dior.

The French designer Lilly Daché will seize these techniques and will rain and shine on the American fashion market for many years.

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Fashion designer Vivienne Westwood had a psychedelic period where intense purples and violets dominated. In the 2000s, it still offered a few pieces in purplish tartan or purple Prince of Wales. And in 2017, it was she herself who paraded in this PURPLE ensemble.

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According to surveys in Europe and the United States, PURPLE is the color that people most often associate with extravagance and individualism, the unconventional, the artificial and the ambiguous.

CONCLUSION

For a long time, PURPLE had a bad reputation. In the Middle Ages, purple was referred to as “subniger” (sub-black or semi-black) like all dark colors.

PURPLE symbolized deceit and sadness, and was associated with penance and affliction. Thanks to Helmut Newton, PURPLE was recognized and above all, more confused with black.

Today the big luxury houses are bringing PURPLE, this very special color that has crossed the centuries with violence and bad reputation for so long, to the streets…

And yet, you will notice that it is a shade with a lot of class, elegance, inspiring by its history. PURPLE has found its place in society for this reason. When you wear PURPLE, you are “inhabited” by this color, you suddenly become extravagant, unique.

A shade that starts in blue and ends in pink… An incomparable choice for each personality.

GUILLAUMETTE DUPLAIX – COLOR SPECIALIST – RUNWAYMAGAZINES.COM



Posted from RUNWAY MAGAZINE, Paris, France.