Modern colour theory

Modern colour theory is based on the colour principles of Goethe. Goethe himself referred to his research on colour as the master-piece of his oeuvre, and attached to it an importance even greater than to his literary legacy. Originally, Goethe considered colour a subsection of the general laws of harmonics, akin to sound. He acknowledged the principle of three natural prime colours, and that all other colours are but mixtures derived from the original trinity. Goethe attributed these three prime colours to the corners of an equilateral triangle, which is not only a geometrical shape, but also a form of harmony which corresponds with the triad in music.


If mixed in equal quantity, colour shades of the prime order will result. Red and yellow become orange, yellow and blue become green, and blue and red become violet.

These second colours define another equilateral triangle, which, placed on top of the first one, produce a six-branched star. Goethe also arranged all colours in a circle. The opposing colours - red to green, orange to blue, yellow to violet have become known as complementary colours.