Color Problems: Wisdom and Poetics of Artist Emily Noyes Vanderpoel (Colossal)

Color Problems: A Republished Tome Reveals the Color Wisdom and Poetics of 19th-Century Artist Emily Noyes Vanderpoel (Colossal) by Kate Sierzputowski


It seems that a recently successful kickstarter campaign will yield again publish the 19th-Century Artist Emily Noyes Vanderpoel’s book, “Color Problems: A Practical Manual for the Lay Student of Color.”

Colossal editor Kate Sierzputowski writes:

"In 1901 artist and historian Emily Noyes Vanderpoel (1842-1939) published the painting manual Color Problems: A Practical Manual for the Lay Student of Color under the guise of flower painting and decorative arts, subjects that were appropriate for a woman of her time. The study provided an extensive look at color theory ideas of the early 20th-century. Her research-based techniques were later used and circulated by men without mention of her name, and are now commonly used in art curriculums. Many of the included studies predict design and art trends that wouldn’t occur for several decades, such as a concentric square format that predates Joseph Albers’s Homage to the Square by fifty years.

In addition to color lessons and guides, the 400-page book features an extensive collection of her original and intently poetic methods of color analysis, from detailing the color relationships in quotidian objects like a found teacup and saucer, to color swatches of wool sorted by a color-blind man. There is also a watercolor series that poignantly observes the nuanced color of her private moments, such as the bruised colors found in a shadow on white ground or the inherent tones of woods that lay on the edge of a meadow."


However, for those of you that cannot wait to browse this text, it is already in the public domain and can be found/downloaded here at the Hathi Trust Digital Library:;view=1up;seq=23

A Full high-quality PDF is available through the Hathi Trust website.

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