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ARTHIST 3Q03 Colours Of The World (C01)

Academic Year: Winter 2019

Term: Winter

Day/Evening: D

Instructor: Dr. Angela Sheng


Office: Togo Salmon Hall 425

Phone: 905-525-9140 x 23156


Office Hours: Mondays 2-3 pm or by appointment

Course Objectives:

This course aims to examine the complex subject of colour in the artistic, social, and cultural context. It will explore the perception and production of colours today and of earlier times and of different cultures as people have always extracted colours from their environment and used them for different purposes. The focus will be on what constituted sacred colours in different cultures.

This course also aims to empower students to work collaboratively in small groups, undertake independent projects, and make presentations with confidence. By the end of the course, students should be able to analyse colours in terms of their properties and above all, they should have acquired the inquiry skills to deconstruct the meanings of colours in the cultural context of the producers and users of different colours.


Textbooks, Materials & Fees:

Deutscher, Guy. 2010. Through the Language Glass, why the world looks different in other languages. Picador.

Finlay, Victoria. Colour. 2002. Hodder and Stoughton.

Koenig, Becky. 2013 (Fourth edition). Color Workbook. Pearson.

Other assigned readings can be downloaded from JSTOR or Avenue or read from books placed on reserve at Mills Library.

Students will pay for materials such as paper, cardboards, and color crayons or pencils or watercolors or acrylic, etc. for working through the activities and making presentations.


Method of Assessment:

Students will receive at least 20% of the final grade by March 15, 2019.

Details will be posted on Avenue to Learn.

Review of a BBC documentary and Through the Language Glass, due January 21, 15%

Group presentations based on Finlay’s Colour, February 14, 15%

In-class quiz on Color Workbook, Part I: Color Study, March 4, 20%

Essay topic and annotated bibliography due March 28, 10%

Take-home Exam due April 12, 30%.

Full attendance, participation, and peer review, 10 %

To get A+ requires correct spelling and grammar on all written work.

Grading Scale:

A+ 90-100       B+  77-79        C+  67-69        D+       57-59

A   85-89         B    73-76        C    63-66        D         53-56

A-  80-84        B-   70-72        C-   60-62        D-       50-52

Policy on Missed Work, Extensions, and Late Penalties:

No extensions and Make-up Quiz without a timely medical certificate.

Late penalties: for every day past the due date, 5% of the assignment’s grade.

Please Note the Following Policies and Statements:

Academic Dishonesty

You are expected to exhibit honesty and use ethical behaviour in all aspects of the learning process. Academic credentials you earn are rooted in principles of honesty and academic integrity.

Academic dishonesty is to knowingly act or fail to act in a way that results or could result in unearned academic credit or advantage. This behaviour can result in serious consequences, e.g. the grade of zero on an assignment, loss of credit with a notation on the transcript (notation reads: "Grade of F assigned for academic dishonesty"), and/or suspension or expulsion from the university.

It is your responsibility to understand what constitutes academic dishonesty. For information on the various types of academic dishonesty please refer to the Academic Integrity Policy, located at

The following illustrates only three forms of academic dishonesty:

  1. Plagiarism, e.g. the submission of work that is not one’s own or for which other credit has been obtained.
  2. Improper collaboration in group work.
  3. Copying or using unauthorized aids in tests and examinations.

Email correspondence policy

It is the policy of the Faculty of Humanities that all email communication sent from students to instructors (including TAs), and from students to staff, must originate from each student’s own McMaster University email account. This policy protects confidentiality and confirms the identity of the student.  Instructors will delete emails that do not originate from a McMaster email account.

Modification of course outlines

The University reserves the right to change dates and/or deadlines etc. for any or all courses in the case of an emergency situation or labour disruption or civil unrest/disobedience, etc. If a modification becomes necessary, reasonable notice and communication with the students will be given with an explanation and the opportunity to comment on changes. Any significant changes should be made in consultation with the Department Chair.

McMaster Student Absence Form (MSAF)

In the event of an absence for medical or other reasons, students should review and follow the Academic Regulation in the Undergraduate Calendar Requests for Relief for Missed Academic Term Work. Please note these regulations have changed beginning Fall 2015. You can find information at If you have any questions about the MSAF, please contact your Associate Dean's office.

Academic Accommodation of Students with Disabilities

Students who require academic accommodation must contact Student Accessibility Services (SAS) to make arrangements with a Program Coordinator. Academic accommodations must be arranged for each term of study. Student Accessibility Services can be contacted by phone 905-525-9140 ext. 28652 or e-mail For further information, consult McMaster University's Policy for Academic Accommodation of Students with Disabilities.

Academic Accommodation for Religious, Indigenous and Spiritual Observances

Students requiring academic accommodation based on religion and spiritual observances should follow the procedures set out in the Course Calendar or by their respective Faculty. In most cases, the student should contact his or her professor or academic advisor as soon as possible to arrange accommodations for classes, assignments, tests and examinations that might be affected by a religious holiday or spiritual observance.

Topics and Readings:

Texts (see above) and additional materials accessed online or on reserve at Mills Library.

Detailed reading list and assignments will be posted on Avenue.

January 7 and 10


A BBC documentary and Through the Language Glass

January 14 and 17

Through the Language Glass and

Color Workbook, Part I: Color Study, Ch. 1: The Nature of Color

Review of a BBC documentary and Through the Language Glass, due January 21, 15%

January 21 and 24

Visions of Color in World History

Color Workbook, Ch. 2: The Color Circle and Color Systems

January 28 and 31

Color Workbook, Ch. 3: Attributes of Color

group-study on 31st: begin preparation for February 14 presentation

February 4 and 7

Color Workbook, Ch. 4: Color Interaction

Red, White, and Black in Symbolic Thought

Group presentations based on Finlay’s Colour, February 14, 15%

February 11 and 14

Color Workbook, Ch. 5: The Materials of Color

February 18-22: RECESS, NO CLASSES

February 25 and 28

What Color Is the Sacred?

Color Workbook, Ch. 6: Digital Color

In-class quiz on Color Workbook, Part I: Color Study March 4, 20%

March 4 and 7

Color Workbook, Part II: Designing with Color, Ch. 7: The Elements of Design

Icons and the Use of Gold

March 11 and 14

Color Workbook, Ch. 8: The Principles of Design

Coloring the Sacred in 16th century Mexico

March 18 and 21, GUEST SPEAKER

Color Workbook, Ch. 9: Color Schemes and Harmonies

Essay topic and annotated bibliography, due March 28, 10%

March 25 and 28

Color Workbook, Ch. 10: Designing with Color

The Sacred in Islamic Culture

April 1 and 4

Color Workbook, Ch. 11: Expressive Color

Itõ Jakuchû’s Buddhist paradise

April 8

Color Workbook, Ch. 12: Color in Art


Take-home Exam (essay) and peer-review due April 12, 30%.

Other Course Information:

Attendance of all classes is mandatory. Lectures will cover supplementary materials.


REFERENCES, all on reserve at Mills Library:

On colours in in Asia:

Dusenbury, M (ed.). 2015. Color in Ancient and Medieval East Asia (Spencer Museum of Art). N 7432.7 .C64 2015

Yu, Fei’an, transl. by Jerome Silbergeld and Amy McNair. 1988. Chinese Painting Colours, Studies of Their Preparation and Application in Traditional Modern Times. (Hong Kong University Press and University of Washington Press).

ND1510.Y813 1988

On colours in Europe:

Gage, John. 1993. Color and Culture: practice and meaning from antiquity to abstraction.

ND 1488 .G34 1993

Gage, John. 1999. Color and Meaning: Art, Science and Symbolism (University of California Press). ND 1488 .G344 1999

Harley, R. D. 1970. Artists’ Pigments, c. 1600-1835, A Study in English documentary Source. (London: Butterworths). ND 1510. H36

On colours in the Muslim World

Blair, Jonathan and Sheila. 2011. And diverse are their hues: color in Islamic art and culture (Yale University Press) N 7432.7 .H36 2011

Goldenberg, David M. 2003. The Curse of Ham, Race and Slavery in Early Judaism, Christianity, and Islam (Princeton University Press). BS 580 .H27 G65 2003

On colours in South America:

Feeser et al. (eds.). 2012. The Materiality of Color, The Production, Circulation, and Application of Dyes and Pigments, 1400-1800 (Ashgate). HD 9999 .D9 M38 2012

Lane, Kris. 2010. Colour of Paradise: The Emerald in the Age of Gunpowder Empires. ONLINE access through Mills.


Ball, Philip. 2001. Bright Earth, art and the invention of color. The University of Chicago Press. N 7432.7 .B35 2003

Blaszzczyk, Regina Lee. 2012. “Nationalism” in her The Color Revolution (MIT Press). ONLINE access through Mills.

When necessary, adjustments to the readings and additional references will be posted on Avenue to Learn.