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ARTHIST 3Q03 Colours Of The World

Academic Year: Fall 2015

Term: 1

Day/Evening: D

Instructor: Dr. Angela Sheng


Office: Togo Salmon Hall 425

Phone: 905-525-9140 x 23156


Office Hours: Wednesdays 1-2 pm or by appointment

Course Objectives:

This course aims to examine how people of earlier times and different cultures extracted colours from their environment and used them in their daily lives.

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 analyze colours in terms of their properties and above all, they should have acquired the inquiry skills to deconstruct the meaning of colour in the cultural context of the producers and users of colour.

Textbooks, Materials & Fees:

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

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

Pentak, Stephen and Richard Roth. 2004. Color Basics (Thomson and Wadsworth).

Ball, Philip, Mark Clarke, and Carinna Parraman. 2013.

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

Method of Assessment:

5-page Assignment due September 15 and class presentation, 10%

Group Presentation on September 28, 15%

Project title, outline and bibliography due October 6, 10%

Presentation November 3, 20%

In-class Quiz on November 25, 10%

Take-home Exam due December 15, 30%

Full Attendance and peer review, 5 %


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:

Through the Language Glass and a BBC documentary

Sept. 15 and 16

Through the Language Glass

Sept. 22 and 23 Theories of Colour

Sept. 28 and 29 Early Pigments

Oct. 6 and 7 Cultural Constructions

[Oct. 13 and 14 BREAK, NO CLASS]

Oct. 20 and 21 Worldview

Oct. 27 and 28 How Colours Work

Guest Speaker

November 3 and 4 Colours in Three-dimensions, Presentations on Nov. 3, 20%

Nov. 10 and 11 Colour and Religion

November17 and 18 Light and Dark

November 24 and 25 Synthetic Colours, In-Class Quiz on Oct. 25, 10%

December 1 and 2 Asian Paradigms

December 8     Conclusions, Give Take-home Final 30%


Other Course Information:

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

REFERENCES, all on reserve at Mills Library:

On colour in Asia:

Dusenbury, M (ed.). 2015. Color in Ancient and Medieval East Asia (Spencer Museum of Art). ISBN-10: 0300212992 ISBN-13: 978-030021299 [purchase requested]

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 colour 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 colour in Islam: 

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 colour 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.

·  ISBN-10: 030016131X  ·  ISBN-13: 978-0300161311 [purchase requested]

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

When necessary, additional references will be posted on Avenue to Learn.