Color in the Age of Impressionism Commerce, Technology, and Art

Laura Anne Kalba

Color in the Age of Impressionism analyzes the impact of color-making technologies on the visual culture of nineteenth-century France, from the early commercialization of synthetic dyes to the Lumière brothers’ perfection of the autochrome color photography process. Focusing on Impressionist art, Laura Anne Kalba examines the importance of dyes produced in the second half of the nineteenth century to the vision of artists such as Edgar Degas, Pierre-Auguste Renoir, and Claude Monet.

The proliferation of vibrant new colors in France during this time challenged popular understandings of realism, abstraction, and fantasy in the realms of fine art and popular culture. More than simply adding a touch of spectacle to everyday life, Kalba shows, these bright, varied colors came to define the development of a consumer culture increasingly based on the sensual appeal of color. Impressionism—emerging at a time when inexpensively produced color functioned as one of the principal means by and through which people understood modes of visual perception and signification—mirrored and mediated this change, shaping the ways in which people made sense of both modern life and modern art.

Demonstrating the central importance of color history and technologies to the study of visuality, Color in the Age of Impressionism adds a dynamic new layer to our understanding of visual and material culture.

Kalba cover lr


  • $84.95 cloth, 978-0-271-07700-0
  • $84.95 ebook
  • 288 pages
  • 117 illus., 106 in color, 9 x 9.5 in.

Content Excerpt

Table of Contents

about the author

Laura Kalba's research and teaching interests mainly focus on late 19th- and early 20th-century European art, architecture and popular commercial visual culture.

Tentatively titled Currencies: Allegories and Abstraction in the Golden Age of Finance Capital, her second major project seeks to illuminate the intersection between economic and artistic modes of representation, examining, more specifically, the ways visual and material culture mirrored and mediated the controversial new understandings of value and money born of the explosion of the global financial industry in the second half of the 19th century.

In 2012, she worked as a curatorial consultant for the Smith College Museum of Art's exhibition Debussy's Paris: Art, Music, and Sounds of the City. And, in 2014, she helped organize an AALAC-funded two-day symposium on the theme "Visual Studies in the Liberal Arts."