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The Republic of ColorScience, Perception, and the Making of Modern America$
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Michael Rossi

Print publication date: 2019

Print ISBN-13: 9780226651729

Published to Chicago Scholarship Online: May 2020

DOI: 10.7208/chicago/9780226651866.001.0001

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PRINTED FROM CHICAGO SCHOLARSHIP ONLINE (www.chicago.universitypressscholarship.com). (c) Copyright University of Chicago Press, 2021. All Rights Reserved. An individual user may print out a PDF of a single chapter of a monograph in CHSO for personal use.date: 18 September 2021

Modern Chromatics

Modern Chromatics

Ogden Rood and the Wrong-Workings of the Eye

(p.23) Chapter One Modern Chromatics
The Republic of Color

Michael Rossi

University of Chicago Press

This chapter details the transformation of color science from an objective, physical science to a subjective, psychophysical science through a focus on Ogden Rood’s textbook, Modern Chromatics (1879). Rood, a physicist and amateur painter, wrote Modern Chromatics in order to introduce readers – especially artists – to the idea that color was a phenomenon “in the eye” of sensing beings rather than one that belonged to objects. The book was astoundingly successful. Impressionist painters in France called it their “bible;” artists, decorators, architects, doctors, textile makers, philosophers, and researchers across Europe and America read Modern Chromatics to understand the new truth of color. Rood himself, however, struggled to reconcile the influence of his own work with its metaphysical implications – for if color was a product of mere subjective appearances, then what was it that he was instructing his readers to paint, to understand, to feel?

Keywords:   Ogden Rood, Objectivity, Subjectivity, Impressionism, Chromatics

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