Living Reference Work Entry

Encyclopedia of Color Science and Technology

pp 1-3

Date: Latest Version

Itten, Johannes

  • David BriggsAffiliated withPublic Programs, National Art School Email author 
  • , Stephen WestlandAffiliated withColour Science & Technology, University of Leeds

Johannes Itten was a Swiss expressionist painter, designer, and teacher and one of the main pedagogical forces behind the Bauhaus in its earliest phase. His 1961 book The Art of Color presented color theory in a simplified form that largely excluded scientific developments from the mid-nineteenth century onward. His approach has permeated much subsequent teaching of color in the arts.

Itten was born in Südern-Linden (Switzerland) on 11 November 1888. He trained and practiced as a teacher in Bern before studying under the abstract painters Eugène Gilliard in Geneva (1912) and Adolf Hoelzel in Stuttgart (1913–1916). He then ran his own art school in Vienna until the director of the Bauhaus in Weimar, Walter Gropius, appointed him as one of its first teachers in 1919. Itten played a key role in the development of the “preliminary course” that would teach students the basics of material characteristics, composition, and color. However, conflict involving Itten’s ambitions, his promotion of ...

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