NGV curators and contributing scholars, research specialists and guests guide participants through a study of the various facets of colour including colour theory, the history of pigments, the science behind colour and our relationship with it. This course explores the central role of colour in art and design throughout history.


Week 1
An Introduction to Colour
We experience colour in our lives every day, but what if we stop and ask the question – what, in fact, is ‘colour’? To begin the course, we will learn the science behind colour and our perception of it and explore colour theory and the history of colour in art and design. How have artists and designers utilised the properties of colour and colour theory in their work?
Week 2
Artist’s Colours and Pigments
From the first pigments drawn out of the earth to our ongoing ingenuity in creating colours that were previously unavailable, colour has always played an integral role in the way we describe the world around us. What are the stories behind certain colours and how did they come to be produced and eventually used by artists and designers?
Week 3
The Science of Colour
Learn about how colour can be conserved, manipulated and analysed, from methods used by conservators to perceive colour, to fugitive pigments, re-touching and colour-matching. How does the colour we see in works of art and design impact their preservation and care? What can we learn about an artwork through the study of colours that have been used in their production?
Week 4
Symbolism and Uses of Colour
What do different colours symbolise? How does this symbolism differ between people, places and cultures? How are we influenced by colour? Discover the various ways that colour has been and continues to be used throughout history and around the world.
Week 5
Colour and Culture in the 20th and 21st Century
How has colour been gendered, politicised and commodified with the rise of consumer culture? Learn about how communities and artists have used colour to effect change and communicate ideas.

Course objectives

  • Explain the basics behind the science of colour
  • Outline the key elements of colour theory
  • Look at the history and development of colour pigments
  • Discuss key examples of the influence of colour on art and design
  • Discuss the psychology of colour and our relationship with it
  • Identify, describe and analyse works of art and design in the NGV Collection with a focus on colour

Enrolment options

Standard Course Enrolment

Includes 8-week access to learning materials from the course start date.


  • General: $69
  • NGV Members: $64
  • Student/Educator: $66

Booking Fee $5.50

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Combat 1965
oil on canvas
179.0 x 410.4 cm
National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne
Felton Bequest, 1992
© Lee Krasner/ARS, New York. Licensed by Copyright Agency, Australia