Source: Lapham’s Quarterly
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For many modern audiences, silent films are virtually synonymous with black and white. Yet as far back as 1895, more than 80 percent of them were all or somewhat colored with dyes, stencils, color baths, and tints. These additives and techniques transformed an already magical medium into transcendent dreamscapes that were colored by craftspeople—mostly women—who painted every tiny black-and-white frame one-by-one, prefiguring the colorization process developed in the 1970s. Archived at Holland’s EYE Filmmuseum, more than 250 still images culled from 96 of these largely forgotten films are featured in an eye-popping new book, Fantasia of Color in Early Cinema.
“The best access we have of what color is and what it does to us is by studying the work of people who have studied it obsessively. Matisse is one of those people. I think it’s extremely valuable, and there’s been very limited work treating that corpus as the sort of scientific evidence that it will turn out to be.” —Bevil Conway, Neuroscientist