The Colour Black in Art

These geniuses of colour, have somewhere down the line realized that black is actually a very expressive colour. While some have used to express their emotions, some have used to express their socio-political opinions and then there are others who express different other curiosities like space & time.

Searching for black in art is perhaps not that difficult; for example, to show shadow an artist more often than not will use black.

It’s interesting to know though not very surprising that black was one of the first ever colours used in the art. We began creating art with the colour black. The Prehistoric man’s paint of choice was made of iron and charcoal. The striking black Ox is what one remembers when someone mentions Lascaux Caves, France, which is one of the earliest known work of art, all in black.

I will be picking a couple of works to highlight the use of black in art.

Let’s begin by looking at F.N Souza’s Black Paintings, exhibited in the 1960’s these paintings were then known as the downfall of F.N. Souza’s fame as an artist in Britain. He was famed in the 50’s for his bold use of colour and style. However, in the following decade when he exhibited his Black Paintings in 1966 he didn’t receive the same amount of praise. The Grosvenor Gallery held an exhibition in 2013 called ‘F.N Souza: Black on Black Paintings’ (see catalogue) a new opinion was formed suddenly they were seen for what these paintings really were. Souza’s Black Paintings stems from different phases of his life in Britain, he explained Negro in Mourning (1957) “I painted Negro in Mourning in London when the race riots flared…it is about the colour of skin”. The Black Paintings shows his interest in politics.

Since Souza is no more with us we can’t really get into why he created black on black paintings, because he never left us a straightforward answer, but it sure stirred the art institutions and brought out the dirt within.

‘Descent into Limbo’ came into the limelight very recently for a hilarious reason because a tourist fell into the ‘Vantablack’ 8 ft. deep pit. Vantablack is the darkest black known to mankind because it absorbs 99.965% of visible light. This particular piece of art explores space and time, on the face of it Descent into Limbo by Anish Kapoor looks like a two-dimensional black circle because the colour itself doesn’t reveal depth. Space even after so many attempts at exploration is a mystery to us, we’ve barely scratched the surface. We do let our imagination run wild when it comes to figuring out space & time, hence black is a fitting colour, which adds to the actual making of the installation.


Art is an expression, it has the power to express everything, every emotion & every moment can be expressed in art. Art brings out our curiosities too. So whether it’s the brushstrokes or simple use of colour everything adds to the making of an art piece. Black even though is non-existent in an artist’s wheel it’s still widely used. Black is so versatile that it can take any form. Black in the art can be studied on its own.

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