Johannes Itten

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Regarded as one of the most brilliant minds of the art world, Johannes Itten was the first painter to successfully define and identify strategies for color combinations. The Swiss painter mostly worked in the expressionist style of art and was a skilled teacher, designer and theorist as well. Together with Lyonel Feininger and Gerhard Marcks he was part of the Weimar Bauhaus – a Bauhaus movement associated strongly with art. Apart from his pioneering color strategies Itten made a name for himself through the Bauhaus as they stemmed from different concepts of art disciplines, their belief was that there is no difference between an artist and a craftsman – something which was quite radical to comprehend during those times.   Through his meticulous research he devised seven core methodologies for coordinating colors by utilizing the hue’s contrasting properties. These methodologies are still in use today and have been the subject of numerous books and documentaries.

He was born in 1888 in Sudern-Linden in Switzerland.  He initially trained to be an elementary school teacher but during his elementary teacher training he was exposed to the concepts of psychoanalysis which enabled him to move onto to study color and painting theories in depth. Soon Itten began forming his own unique theories on the creative spirit and how to best utilize it. During his brief tenure as an art teacher he took immense care as to not correct his students’ mistakes individually – he was of the opinion that such things could crush the creative impulse of an individual. Itten’s biggest inspirations were Adolf Holzel and Franz Cizek, in fact one of his earlier books on color theories was driven a lot on Holzel’s teachings. Through the Bauhaus movement Itten was able to teach and direct his students about the basic concepts of colors, materials and compositions. Itten’s famous book The Art of Color went on to highlight the color sphere which included 12 different dimensions of color theories. Due to Itten’s staunch devotion to a cult following and the fact that it led many students to follow suit resulted in his dismissal from the Bauhaus group. This led to Itten opening up his own art and architecture school in Berlin where he continued his teachings. Itten’s work is inspirational when it comes to studying seasonal color analysis. His finest works where he has explored the use and composition of color resemble some of the greats like Max Bill, Bridget Riley and Josef Albers.

Itten’s strength as an artist was also heightened by the fact that he was a superb art teacher who taught his students in very unconventional manners. His students were often given innate objects like steel, mud, glass, paper and wood to experiment with. Itten was of the opinion that even the most simple of things could inspire creativity in a person. For Itten color was life and any world without a hint of color in it was as good as dead. Colors represented ideas and light for him, a single color could ignore a series of ideas.

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