Two theories for a model: the “querelle” between Klee and Ostwald

  • Anna Marotta Department of Architecture and Design, Polytechnic of Turin
Keywords: Comparative theories of colour, Colour models, Paul Klee, Wilhelm Ostwald, History of colour, Polysensory


Framed in the time of history, the comparative theories of colour expressed not only give us a sort of "distillate" of chromatic culture, but also constitute a precious instrument of investigation, useful in the syncretic comparison of thoughts and positions, sometimes very different from each other, as in the case of the "querelle" between Paul Klee and Wilhelm Ostwald, a question proposed here again. This type of comparison, addressed in the 2017 conference on circular models, is developed here on biconical models, starting with those of Wilhelm Ostwald and Paul Klee, assuming and confirming the classification and analytical structuring of the models through the parameters adopted in Polychrome (Marotta 1999). It should be remembered that Klee publicly took a stand against Ostwald's theory and his model, but in fact assumed the essential geometry of the model of the chemist himself. The present investigation therefore aims to better clarify (in the face of formal analogies) the differences in objectives and scientific and artistic content. The work confirms that the position taken by Klee and his followers was partly prejudicial, linked to his artistic training and related experiences in the field, to which his intellectual milieu was no stranger. The position of the chemist is symmetrical, linked to the rigor of his scientific profile (although completed by the practice of painting). The substantial rapprochement of their respective convictions confirms the open-mindedness and maturity to which the two protagonists have arrived. In addition to describing cultural matrices, parameters and essential characteristics of the models examined, of particular interest is the scope of the applications already put in place of the models, or possible future developments, also connected to new methodologies (such as virtual and digital) in the color project, up to the experiments in concrete and material production. The most innovative digital virtual modes will allow to verify the analogies and differences (of forms and contents) of the respective models.

Author Biography

Anna Marotta, Department of Architecture and Design, Polytechnic of Turin

Anna Marotta Architect, PhD, Full Professor in Representation at the Department of Architecture and Design (DAD) of Politecnico di Torino. Member of the Doctoral College in Architectural and Landscape Heritage.

She teaches disciplines related to drawing and representation fields, including Visual Communication and Semiotics, Laboratory of Drawing and Architectural Survey, Atelier of Representation and Project, Drawing from the True and the Imaginary. Since 2012 she is a member of the Scientific Committee of the Gruppo del Colore and she is a member of the Presidential Committee of the Associazione Nazionale Colore. He directs the "Culture of vision" series, for the publisher Aracne.


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How to Cite
Marotta, A. (2019) “Two theories for a model: the ‘querelle’ between Klee and Ostwald”, Cultura e Scienza del Colore - Color Culture and Science, 11(02), pp. 63-72. doi: 10.23738/CCSJ.110207.