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Red and yellow, green and blue, warm and cool: explaining colour appearance

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Painters are the experts in colour phenomenology. Their business is to use colour to affect our feelings. Psychophysicists are expert in making experimental inferences from behavioural responses to the functional mechanisms of perception. The varying aims of these two groups of people mean that much that is of interest to the one is of little concern to the other. However, in recent times several prominent psychophysicists, such as Floyd Ratliff (1992), Jack Werner (1998; Werner and Ratliff, 1999) and Dorothea Jameson (1989), have thrown much light on painterly practice. Following their lead, I would like to sketch some of the mechanisms that are responsible for many of the features of colour appearance important to the work of visual artists. I will begin with some phenomena that can be accounted for by mechanisms that are reasonably well understood, and then move to phenomena whose underlying basis is less well established. I will conclude with a suggestive experiment and, true to my calling as a philosopher, a piece of downright speculation.
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Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: Department of Philosophy, Syracuse University, Syracuse, NY 13244, USA.

Publication date: August 1, 2000

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