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Carolyn Suann Purnell
Unknown institution
The Language of Color: Color Dictionaries, Technology, and the Science of Aesthetics, 1740-1920

Research and writing of a book on the history and science of color since the 18th century.

Between 1740 and 1920, new technologies, improved trade links, and the growth of consumer society meant that the world was newly filled with color. Philosophers, naturalists, manufacturers, and artists created hundreds of new color systems, most notably in the form of “color dictionaries.” Ultimately, this project explains why these systems were of such importance; what larger cultural problems theorists tried to solve with these systems; how new experiences of color affected the lives of average people; and what kinds of legacies color systematization has today. This project highlights how the humanities help us understand the relationships between humans and the natural world. This project also significantly modifies the dominant historical narrative about aesthetics and economic status in the modern era, and, by emphasizing connections between social hierarchies, science, art, nationalism, and race, it shows how artistic experience creates links and barriers between people.

[Grant products]

Project fields:
Cultural History; History and Philosophy of Science, Technology, and Medicine; History, General


Research Programs

$50,400 (approved)
$50,400 (awarded)

Grant period:
8/1/2018 – 7/31/2019