This project, entitled “Chromotherapy: Modernity and the Colour Cure” (CHROMOCURE), aims to analyse how the search to heal the human mind and body in modern society was framed by the curative properties of colour from 1880 to 1940. Fin-de-siècle and early 20th-century modernity (1880s-1930s) succeeded the mid-19th-century colour revolution in Europe, when the manufacture of new chemical aniline dyes enabled the production of novel synthetic colours at the same time as the physiology of colour and light perception became a central focus of the expanding field of optics. Informed by the rise of spiritualism or occult beliefs and the Victorian fascination with synaesthesia (a perceptual condition in which sensory input from one cognitive stream, like sound, gives rise to sensory input from another unstimulated cognitive stream, like colour), modern doctors, psychologists, musicians, and artists attributed therapeutic or stimulating functions to colour in the form of coloured light, sound, and art. Dr Fryxell will investigate how doctors, artists, and public intellectuals across Britain, America, France, and Germany understood the perception of colour to impact human physiology and psychology. Using a close analysis of historical medical texts, music/art treatises, and spiritual writings, she will trace the relationship between popular understandings of colour therapeutics (“chromotherapy”) and the use of colour in modern art/music. This research will reveal new interdisciplinary connections between medicine and modern art by investigating colour’s centrality to social therapeutics and aesthetics. Dr Fryxell’s innovative approach to chromotherapy in the fields of cultural history and colour studies will enable her to reveal a hitherto unknown aspect of medical history (the use of colour to treat human disease in modern societies) as well as connect the use of colour in modern art to a broader history of the curative properties attributed to colour in early modernity.
Fields of science
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