Seymour Hal Rogoff
"Called by critics a 'color theorist,' 'communications expert,' and 'The Wizard of Op'" The
Park Forest Star, May 11, 1969 Hal became the first artist to successfully paint with the
concept of color as light energy. His hard-edge geometric artwork is aesthetically
appealing and demonstrates and corrects many color principles. Hal hoped to provide a
road-map from which future artists can master the visual language.
History of Color
Known attempts to understand the perception of color
began in the 15th century when Leonardo da Vinci
(1452-1519), noticed the diverse coloring of different
planes of colored objects. He provided us with the first
scientific explanation of the effects of colored light. He
proposed that various planes of a solid object reflected
light received from differently colored sources and in
turn modified the color of the light reflected off of them
onto other colored surfaces. In theory, Leonardo
understood the phenomena of colored light, but it was
over four hundred years before its principles were put
into effect in painting.
Strictly speaking, colored surfaces do not reflect light energy.
They give off harmonics of the energy wavelengths of the
colors in the light that they are sensitive to. Photons hitting
colored surfaces cause their electrons to oscillate and emit
stimulated harmonics of the colors to which they are sensitive.
Although da Vinci had explained the behavior of colored light,
most 15th, 16th, and 17th century painters ignored how colors
are affected by environment. Instead they used a simple color
mixing formula to represent local colors. For example, they
ignored the color of the light, the true reflected colors and
their subtle variations of warm and cool color. So, to represent
shade and shadow colors of white objects, many used color
mixtures of various amounts of colors like Raw Umber, Burnt
Umber, Van Dyke Brown, or Bistre and White. A tiny amount of
the color of nearby objects was added to represent reflected
color. In real life, we practically never see these brown colors
in the shade and shadow colors of white objects.
In the middle of the fourth decade of the 17th century Sir Isaac Newton
(1642-1727), placed a prism in front of a ray of sunlight and broke it into
its many different component colors. From this simple experiment he
proved that sunlight is made up of many different colors. We now know
it is made up of different color energy wavelengths. In 1704 he Published
"Opticks", describing his theory that white light is made up of different
colors. We have known ever since that color is light energy. However
artists did not do much about this for over a century.
"At Yale Bernard Chaiet introduced me to the
techniques of the old masters. Eventually I was
able to reproduce Da Vinci’s painting medium. It
is not dark brown like the mediums of Georgoni,
Raphael, Rembrandt, Rubens at all. It is light in
color like raw linseed oil."