Ogden Rood and the Wrong-Workings of the Eye
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?
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