i have been fascinated lately with the evolution of color sensibilities as dictated by politics and consumer culture. after a painting instructor mentioned to me that the boxes i was painting (and by extension the paintings themselves) reminded her of cold war artifacts–and many probably are–i began snooping around online for manufacturers who may have had a role in shaping American color preferences at that time. Kohler, the manufacturer of kitchen and bathroom tiles, toilets, etc. has a great chart on their website that reveals the evolution of color swatches taken from their products throughout the decades as a reflection of the tastes of American consumers.

until a few weeks ago the Kohler site also featured interesting text descriptions of these changing sensibilities, including this one about the 40’s:

“The 1940s and World War II brought soil-hiding khaki and olive green, as well as patriotic reds and blues. Doing its part for the war effort, the American textile industry even restricted the number of colors available for fabric, thus suppressing the appetite for new colors and new clothes every season. Brighter colors started to return after the war years, though the political and social influences of the time kept colors relatively restrained.”

I also discovered this website http://www.colourlovers.com that gives you the ability to create your own palettes and lets you browse palettes from other users.  You can select colors individually or use an interface that allows you to generate palettes automatically based on uploaded photographs.  below is a portion of a screenshot from http://www.colourlovers.com featuring a palette I just created, based on one of my box paintings.   after I created this palette, i found that the website had matched each color as closely as possible to a variety of wall paint by “Martha Stewart Living Paint™, available at the Home Depot.” Like the purple in my painting?  The closest Martha Stewart match is “Plum Pudding”.  Home Depot is obviously a sponsor of the Colour Lovers website, reflecting the intrinsic links between advertising, consumerism and the ever-shifting color preferences of societies as manifested in products of design and fine art.