“Women think of all colors except the absence of color. I have said that black has it all. White too. Their beauty is absolute. It is the perfect harmony.”
White is both the absence of any colour and the sum of all colours in concert. White, like the colour black, brings contrast to our lives. Symbolizing purity, innocence, honesty, death and rebirth, beginning and end, this is the colour that brings us cold milk, fluffy cumulus clouds, polished alabaster, and freshly fallen snow.
The priests and priestesses of Ancient Egypt dressed in white linen in reverence to the goddess Isis. Ancient Greece associated white with mother’s milk; Roman citizens over a certain age wore a white toga for ceremonial occasions. Medieval and Renaissance tapestries, manuscripts and paintings highlighted the white unicorn as a symbol of purity and grace. Even today, white is reserved for our extraordinary moments – weddings, births, and in some cultures, funerals.
As a contrast colour, white brings a sense of the dramatic. Whether it is the red and white of the Canadian Maple Leaf flag, white chalk against a blackboard, or the twinkling stars against the black sky, we pay attention. Pablo Picasso once asked, “Why do two colours, put one next to the other, sing? Can one really explain this? No. Just as one can never learn how to paint.”
Colours are a cultural reflection of our lives and the society that we create. We draw from the world around us for insight and affirmation. John Ruskin, the leading English art critic of the Victorian era, once said that “The purest and most thoughtful minds are those which love colour the most.” Colour inspires us to express ourselves beyond words, to imagine a kinder, gentler lifestyle.
“White is not a mere absence of colour; it is a shining and affirmative thing, as fierce as red, as definite as black. God paints in many colours; but He never paints so gorgeously, I had almost said so gaudily, as when He paints in white.”