Beautiful Green

Playing with my iPhone camera I shot the grass below me in motion.
It got me thinking about the history and meaning of colors.

green grass
Grass in motion: Emerald Green

History of the Color Green

The word green is closely related to the Old English verb growan, “to grow.” Green is the color of life. It is the color of seasonal renewal. Since verdant spring triumphs over barren winter, green symbolizes hope and immortality. The Chinese associate green (and black) with the female Yin – the passive and receiving principle. Islam venerates the color green, expecting paradise to be full of lush vegetation. Green is also associated with regeneration, fertility, and rebirth due to its connections with nature.

In some cultures, green symbolizes hope and growth, while in others, it is associated with death, sickness, or the devil. It can also describe someone who is inexperienced, jealous, or sick.

Monet’s Water Lilies and Japanese Bridge, 1897-1899

History of Green Pigments

In painting (substructive color system), green is not a primary color, but is created by mixing yellow and blue. Green pigments have been used since Antiquity, both in the form of natural earth and malachite, used primarily by Egyptians. Greeks introduced verdigris, one of the first artificial pigments. Copper resinate was introduced in European 15th century easel panting, but was soon discarded. Thanks to chemistry, a new generation of greens was introduced beginning in the late 18th century: cobalt green, emerald green, and viridian.

The Impressionists revived the use of the color green. The depiction of the green color of nature was revived in Impressionism partly because of the advent of tubes for pigments, which made it possible to paint on location, and partly thanks to the manufacture of new and brighter green pigments. In his painting “The Japanese Bridge,” 1899, Monet uses the color of hope together with the symbol of a bridge. The bridge stands for the uniting of people and revives hope for a peaceful future. Incidentally, Monet’s use of Emerald Green pigment, which contained arsenic, may have contributed to his blindness in later life.


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