Home Magazine Monochrome: How Many Colors Do You Need To Create An Artwork?

How many colours do you need to create an artwork? Sometimes just one. In fact, the word "monochrome" literally means one colour. Where did all begin?

In the 20th century, with the rise of abstract art  and many artists started to experiment in monochrome paintings. Just a few names of the big ones, as Anish Kapoor, Ad Reinhardt, Robert Ryman and Robert Rauschenberg. Everything started with Abstraction. Avant-garde artists became obsessed by separating subject form from art, in order to explore the pure nature of art itself. Monochrome paintings are part of this idea. So, using just a single colour means reduces an artwork into its simple form.

Discover more about the abstract art origins by reading this article "A History of Abstract Art"...

One of the first pioneer making this connection was Kazimir Malevich. He was one of the first artists to dedicate himself to reducing art into its simplest forms, translated his idea into the movement of suprematism. In 1917-1918, he created his first set of monochrome paintings. Each composed of a white square on white background, entitled White on white. That was one of the first works of pure abstraction.

But it’s important to mention that the monochrome technique was born with two meanings. Reduce artworks to its simplest form, as just mentioned, and for communicating spiritual purity. One of the most important artists associated with this second meaning was Yves Klein. He realized how deeply colour can touch human emotions. In the 1950s, he created a set of eleven identical blue canvases. In a bright blue colour that Yves Klein developed himself, the International "Blue Klein". For this kind of artists, monochromatic paintings became a powerful way to evoke personal feelings and experiences. The idea was (and still is) to explore emotion and spirituality through monochrome art. Incidentally, specific colours can play a crucial role in abstract art, as explored in our article Colour in Abstract Art

Colour can be used to evoke strong feelings. But feelings are subjective. We see them in different ways, and we describe and remember them differently. What we feel when we are in front of a particular colour depends on the contexts in which we have encountered it previously. This could be an explanation why monochrome paintings evoke such controversy at the time. Because it offers us something specific but also, it welcomes whatever we give.

A monochrome painting is never finished until people look at it, adding a personal meaning. It's an infinite space that the viewer was invited to share.

Here some monochrome paintings selected by Kooness... Start curating your own dream collection with Kooness!


Michelle Benoit

Michelle Benoit, Chartreuse in pink, 2017


Ivan De Menis

Ivan De Menis, Tessera 190/34, 2016


Kim Fonder 

Kim Fonder, Dalai Lama, 2016


Barbara Colombo

Barbara Colombo, Blu, 2017


Moran Fisher

Moran Fisher, Red dots, 2012



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