Colorful Fridays–The Invisible Color of Harmonious War

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“We never really perceive what color is physically.” Joseph Albers (from The Painter’s Keys)

Try searching the color spectrum for magenta. It’s not there. The eye can’t see it. The true compliment of green can’t be found on the color spectrum. If the eye can’t see magenta, where did it come from? The answer can be found in the aftermath of war. This color deriving from war is also purported to be the color of harmony and balance. Contradictory to say the least! This non-color has a colorful past and present.

The name for the red-purple color known as “magenta” came from the Italian town of the same name. A particularly bloody battle where France and Italy fought the Austrians in 1859 took place near the Italian town of Magenta. The blood-soaked ground turned a reddish purple color after the war. This same color is now the center of a new, though bloodless, war.

It seems Telecom giant, T-Mobile has trademarked the color magenta. The T-Mobile trademark information lists “the color magenta” in with its other company trademarks. A subsidiary of AT&T, has a logo with a magenta hue that T-Mobile felt resembled their magenta hue so closely that the response must be a legal battle. T-Mobile has declared war on AT&T for the use of magenta by its subsidiary, AIO. The lawsuit is working its way through the courts. Hopefully, some thoughtful judge will say a color can’t be the sole property of one company, or anybody else for that matter.

As the new war carries on over magenta, one website is proclaiming magenta the color of “universal harmony and emotional balance.” Empower Yourself with Color Psychology also says of magenta, “This is a color to create harmony and balance.” I wonder if anyone has told this to T-Mobile?

How can a company trademark a color that doesn’t exist? Good question. Liz Eliot for explains how the eye sees or doesn’t see magenta in an article titled, “Magenta ain’t no color.” The eye games in the article demonstrate the process of fooling the eye to see magenta. The article also explains how magenta is the actual true compliment of green, not the red that is routinely taught. According to Eliot, on the color spectrum, the eye does not pick up any color that resembles the reddish purple of magenta. tells us that T.Mobile does not own magenta’s use by artists, only by those in the telecom industry. Playing with how the eye sees or doesn’t see magenta can make for some interesting painting. When magenta is not inciting war, it is introducing “harmony and balance.” With magenta as the star, perhaps one can paint balanced battle paintings of harmonious wars.

For more on how the eye sees magenta, follow these links:

Dr. Anne Marie Helmenstine explains magenta in: “What is the wavelength of magenta?” explains it in a video demonstration: “Color mixing: the mystery of magenta.”

Sensational Color has more on the history of the name:

Author: MaryGwyn

Artist-Art Educator-Art in Healthcare

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