The question of color has been at the center of artistic debates at least since the seventeenth century, and it has remained a key issue in the historiography of art. What may be at stake in reconsidering color in its historical dimensions now? Recent research on the issue has gone in two directions. On the one hand, color has been studied as a material substance and a technology. Scholars have documented the relation between technological, industrial, and commercial developments and the quality, range, and availability of pigments and colorants available to artists, manufacturers, and consumers. Another approach has focused on the key role of color in the construction of social, racial, and gender hierarchies. Recent scholarship has revealed the intimate connection between aesthetic debates on chroma and the development of the modern discourse of race. Moreover, the eighteenth century’s feminization of color entangled with the notions of make-up and artifice has been reexamined. Clearly, it is no longer viable to think of color in purely aesthetic, ideologically innocent terms.
This issue of Journal18 aims to consider how the current interest in materiality and the matter of art could be harnessed to alter–enrich, complicate, or challenge–our understanding of the historical functions and social and cultural meanings of color in the long eighteenth century. In what ways may the materialist discussion of color as a substance inflect the account of its ideological and discursive functions? What were the new meanings and effects of color as the physical product and sign of growing global trade networks, colonial and slave economies, and expanding empires? How did colored materials––pigments, dyes, feathers, shells, minerals––serve as tools of hybridity and a means to delineate cultural difference? Can color’s inherent capacity for infinite nuance offer modern art historians alternative lenses onto to the past? We welcome papers that are attuned to color’s mobility, look beyond Western Europe, and decentralize Euro-centric narratives. We are especially interested in papers that consider the broader methodological questions raised by their subject and seek to develop tools to address the urgent issues posed by color.
Ewa Lajer-Burcharth, Harvard University
Thea Goldring, Harvard University
Proposals for issue #17 Color are now being accepted. Deadline for proposals: April 1, 2023.
To submit a proposal, send an abstract (250 words) and brief biography to the following three addresses: email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org, and email@example.com. Articles should not exceed 6000 words (including footnotes) and will be due by September 1, 2023. For further details on submission and Journal18 house style, see Information for Authors.