In his most brilliantly innovative of his Nocturnes,
currently hung in the Detroit Institute of Arts,
Whistler set down his unique impression of the
light, forms and atmosphere of a passing moment
in Thames-side London at night. Of all Whistler's
work, this example departs furthest from the
realistic representation of nature that the
public had come to expect. When the eminent
critic John Ruskin, who fervently believed in
the obligation of art to uphold morality, saw
Nocturne in Black and Gold on exhibition in
1877, he was outraged. In a magazine article
he criticized Whistler for flinging "a pot of
paint in the public's face" and then having
the audacity to charge 200 guineas for it.
Incensed at this attack by an avowed enemy of
"art for art's sake", Whistler sued Ruskin for
libel. At the trial neither judge nor jury
appreciated the significance of the plaintiffs
statement that the painting was not a view of
Cremome but merely "an artistic arrangement"
born of a " lifetime of experience ".
Although the verdict was in Whistler's favour,
only token damages were awarded and the judge
ordered both men to split court costs. The burden
of this expense, added to Whistler's other considerable
debts, left him bankrupt.
Nocturne in Black and Gold: The Falling Rocket
(c.1877), Detroit Institute of Art
Thomas Young, Dictionary of Ideas (Hutchinson), colour
vision, pg. 105-6.
Semir Zeki, "A Vision of the Brain" (Oxford, 1993) ch.
Luigina De Grandis, "Theory and use of Colour",
Blandford Press, pg. 103 and 130 - 1.
Psychology appears to have largely separated from philosophy
circa 1879, when Wundt opened the first Psychology
Laboratory. His methods were chiefly introspective
and concerned with conscious experience. Watson, Tolman
and Pavlov, rejected the use of hypothetical mental
processes, and emphasised observable facts, based on
empirical evidence. The approach grew into behaviourism,
which was extremely influential in America until the
1980s, especially with ideas of B. F. Skinner and experimentation
using rats, based on the earlier work of the Russian
physiologist Ivan Petrovich Pavlov (1849-1936) who studied
the condition reflexes of dogs. However, sharing the
same ancestry, cognitive psychology was re-born in the
1950's, influenced by various developments such as the
advent of the computer. Its protagonists were Chomsky
(linguistic theories), Braudbent and Miller et al
(attention and memory), whose work centred on three
areas, laboratory studies of normal behaviour, investigations
of brain damage subjects and computer simulations.
The Gestalt approach, which emphasised the "whole" (Gestalt)
rather than the constituent parts, first appeared in
Germany in the 1930s, and many of its founders subsequently
fled to America before the Second World War. The approach
opposed Structuralism, Functionalism and Behaviourism.
Its most notable contributions were accounts of how
sensations give rise to perceptions, particularly visual
ones. Collectively these are called the laws of Prägnanz
(pregnant with meaning) because its principles give
meaning to all we see, when restructuring of the whole
situation, often involving problem solving through insight.
When thinking about thinking, the Gestalt psychologists
introduced the concept of functional fixedness (Einstellung),
which blocks creative thinking. This descriptive and
imprecise nature of Gestalt theory has its critics,
and while the approach as such no longer exists, its
influence is felt in many areas where holism is emphasised.
Cognitive psychology, in its various forms, denies that
perception and behaviour are controlled by stimuli,
emphasising the importance of general background knowledge
and more-or-less logical thought processes.
In proposing his "Personal Construct Theory", George
Kelly provided a fundamental postulate, that, "A person's
processes are psychologically channelized by the way
in which he anticip ates events". That is, we seek
to predict, interpret, make assumptions about what reality
is (constructs), and proceed to find out how useful
or useless those assumptions are. D. Bannister and
Fay Fransella, "Inquiring Man, The Theory of Personal
Constructs", Penguin. pg. 18-19.
Richard L. Gregory, "Eye and Brain, The Psychology of
seeing" Oxford University Press, pg. 162.
Richard Gregory, interestingly concludes, that there
is a conflict between designing experiments simple enough
for analysis and sufficiently complex to reveal the
full richness of perceptual phenomena: so science is
an art, and like the arts, is not completely mastered.
José M. Parramón, "Colour Theory", Watson
Gupttill Publications NY, pg. 6
Richard Thompson, "Seurat", published by Phaidon, appendix
II, pg. 225.
Pissarro's palette apparently contains more colours, than
an HTML page allows for colouring "body text" at any one
on the NUMBER to RETURN to the page you are reading.