To celebrate the opening of Saturated: The Allure and Science of Color (May 11, 2018-January 13, 2019), Object of the Day this month will feature colorful objects from the exhibition.

Professor Johannes Itten created a color sphere, represented by this 12-pointed star, as a tool for students at the Bauhaus. Inspired by Philipp Otto Runge’s color sphere from 1810, Itten correlated his to the 12 pitches of a chromatic musical scale as a visual depiction of color harmony. By researching the hue’s contrasting properties, he developed strategies for pleasing color combinations. Although this represented a shift from earlier color studies, he failed to incorporate more recent color theories developed by American color theorist Albert Munsell. Munsell developed a system using spinning colored disks that provided a more objective approach to measuring complimentary hues, which resulted in less symmetrical color models.

Despite his lack of adopting the modern color theories of the time, Itten’s teachings were integral to the basis of Op Art and were later widely dispersed with his 1961 publication, The Art of Color that is still widely used in color theory classes today. He is considered one of the greatest teachers of color in modern times and it began with this first printing of a very rare and influential color sphere.

This object is currently on view in Saturated: The Allure and Science of Color.

Jennifer Cohlman Bracchi is a Librarian for Smithsonian Libraries at Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum.

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