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White

In physics, white is the sum of all the colours. To the human eye, white appears to be the total absence of colour. Amongst artists, white and its many uses in art are continuously evolving and challenging those who would embrace them. Is white, then, a non-colour, or an enhancer of colours? Intangible or material? Absence or excess?

Since Antiquity, white has been appreciated for its symbolic value. In Ancient Greece, where they would paint their statues, it was a sign of incompletion, whereas the Romans believed it showed pomp and imperialist virtue. With the rise of Christianity, white was used in opposition to black in order to emphasise moral dichotomies: the pure, divine white against the darkness. In some cases, however, white was used to show sickness or death, most notably in the pallid representations of the skeletal, crucified Christ.

In the Renaissance white was used to sublimate faces and backgrounds. Da Vinci even based his sfumato technique on the soft transition from light into darkness. Throughout the history of painting, white was considered precious for its ability to reflect light. It attracts the gaze even when used in the tiniest quantities, and illuminates the subject, drawing out stunning contrasts as seen in the works of Rembrandt, or in Vermeer's famous Girl with the Pearl Earring.

With the rise of Impressionism, white was used as the brightest tone amongst shades of grey. While Manet produced canvases which were forerunners to monochromes, including The Reader, which was almost pure white, Monet delivered a stunning gradient of whites whilst recreating the snow at his home in Giverny. The first true white monochrome appeared with the arrival of Malevitch's White Square on a White Background. The artist said 'I have broken the blue boundary of colour limits, and come out into the white'.

 

Modernists were equally passionate about white and valued it incredibly highly. Miro in particular questioned the status of white on canvases. In his painting Woman, Bird and Star white is in parts boldly painted, but is also distinctive for its absence around the star. Picasso, on the other hand, explored white in conjunction with his famous coloured periods. Piero Manzoni became famous thanks to his 'achromatic' paintings, a series of canvases produced exclusively in shades of white. Moving into the 20th century, white became synonymous with minimalist abstraction. For artists like Kandinsky, white was a cosmic colour, associated with a spiritual search for the absolute, guiding the artists as he seek to express his emotions.  

 

Today, white remains an ever popular subject. Roman Opalka made his name creating a series of white numbers of a white background, while Daniel Arsham reinvents white walls in galleries by letting his artwork drip down onto them. White is a colour with multiple symbolic interpretations. The colour of divinity or humility; of purity and immaculate, of emptiness and absence, but always colour. If blue has Klein and red has Rothko, it appears that no artist has yet succeeded in fully mastering white – but maybe you'll find them in our selection!


Collector’s Guide: Collecting Fine Art Photographs

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Kristin Hart, Desert blooms, soft white, Photography

Kristin Hart

Desert blooms, soft white, 2021
48 x 32 x 1 inch
Photography

$2,010

Our recommendations Lucien Clergue, Picasso Preside la Corrida - Frejus, 1962, Photography

Lucien Clergue

Picasso Preside la Corrida - Frejus, 1962, 1962
18 x 22 inch
Photography

$12,000

Man Ray, Untitled Portrait of Female, Photography

Man Ray

Untitled Portrait of Female, 1940
10.13 x 10.25 inch
Photography

$3,000

Angeles Peña, Hielos de San Rafael (Patagonia), Photography

Angeles Peña

Hielos de San Rafael (Patagonia), 2015
39 x 27.5 x 0.1 inch
Photography

$500

Alain Le Chapelier, La taberna trinidad, Photography

Alain Le Chapelier

La taberna trinidad, 2018
19.7 x 27.6 x 0.8 inch
Photography

$590

Aleix  Plademunt, Julia, Photography

Aleix Plademunt

Julia, 2013
15.7 x 11.8 x 2 inch
Photography

$2,048

Martin Munkacsi, Untitled (Church Spire, Seville), Photography

Martin Munkacsi

Untitled (Church Spire, Seville), 1930
14.88 x 11.75 inch
Photography

$999

Oriol Texidor, Manufactura 3, Photography

Oriol Texidor

Manufactura 3, 2008
15.7 x 19.7 x 2.8 inch
Photography

$1,518

Ramon Cornadó, Diàlegs amb la natura 14, Photography

Ramon Cornadó

Diàlegs amb la natura 14, 2018
7.9 x 11.8 inch
Photography

$434

Olivier Le Brun, Mada 2, Photography

Olivier Le Brun

Mada 2, 2000
11.8 x 17.7 inch
Photography

$1,271

Jacques Bosser, Chotto, Photography

Jacques Bosser

Chotto, 2006
11.8 x 11.8 inch
Photography

$1,446

Shulan Wang, Moonshine, Photography

Shulan Wang

Moonshine, 2020
17.7 x 11.8 x 0.4 inch
Photography

$1,205

Philippe Blin, Sans titre - série paysage marin, Photography

Philippe Blin

Sans titre - série paysage marin, 2020
26.4 x 47.2 x 0.2 inch
Photography

$2,108

Strahil Penev, Total Screen II, Photography

Strahil Penev

Total Screen II, 2021
30.7 x 22.4 x 0.4 inch
Photography

$590

Pierre Schwartz, Le cygne de Chantilly, Photography

Pierre Schwartz

Le cygne de Chantilly, 2015
16.9 x 25.6 inch
Photography

$843

Sandrine Elberg, Meteor / asteroid, Photography

Sandrine Elberg

Meteor / asteroid, 2017
15.7 x 11.8 x 0.8 inch
Photography

$1,205

Hervé Dez, Étrange Rivage 1, Photography

Hervé Dez

Étrange Rivage 1, 2019
15.7 x 19.7 x 0 inch
Photography

$470

Paula Guagliardi, Branch, Photography

Paula Guagliardi

Branch, 2019
23.6 x 19.7 x 0.2 inch
Photography

$400

Ivaylo Zafirov, Black-Headed Gulls (Chroicocephalus ridibundus) and Mediterranean Gulls (Ichthyaetus melanocephalus), Photography

Ivaylo Zafirov

Black-Headed Gulls (Chroicocephalus ridibundus) and Mediterranean Gulls (Ichthyaetus melanocephalus), 2019
18.1 x 27.6 inch
Photography

$325

Gilberto Perin, Tuneis, Photography

Gilberto Perin

Tuneis, 2012
15.7 x 23.6 inch
Photography

$1,108

Emanuele Ravagnani, Insta #8, Photography

Emanuele Ravagnani

Insta #8, 2020
4.7 x 3.3 inch
Photography

$386

Anthony Mirial, Le Grand Voyage, Photography

Anthony Mirial

Le Grand Voyage, 2018
31.5 x 47.2 inch
Photography

$5,422

Dani Garcia Sarabia, Contemplum #017, Photography

Dani Garcia Sarabia

Contemplum #017, 2019
13 x 19.7 x 0 inch
Photography

$1,024

Bob Willoughby, Barbara Streisand in the pool at the Beverly Hills Hotel, Photography

Bob Willoughby

Barbara Streisand in the pool at the Beverly Hills Hotel, 1963
20 x 16 inch
Photography

$2,289

Ralph Gibson, Lips, Rome, Photography

Ralph Gibson

Lips, Rome, 1987
7.9 x 11.8 x 0.8 inch
Photography

$1,916

Chema Madoz, Untitled, Photography

Chema Madoz

Untitled, 2003
19.7 x 19.7 x 0.8 inch
Photography

$8,012

André de Dienes, Marylin Monroe (1949), Photography

André de Dienes

Marylin Monroe (1949), 1965
10.6 x 11 x 0.4 inch
Photography

$1,801

Catherine Balet, Looking for the Masters in Ricardo's Golden Shoes #46 (Tribute to Robert Frank), Photography

Catherine Balet

Looking for the Masters in Ricardo's Golden Shoes #46 (Tribute to Robert Frank), 2016
19.7 x 28.3 x 1.6 inch
Photography

$1,084

Marine Kerbidi, Le chemin, Photography

Marine Kerbidi

Le chemin, 2014
15.7 x 23.6 x 0.4 inch
Photography

$452

César Ancelle-Hansen, Beach Bummers, Photography

César Ancelle-Hansen

Beach Bummers, 2008
23.6 x 35.4 inch
Photography

$723

Our recommendations Elliott Erwitt, Untitled, Photography

Elliott Erwitt

Untitled, 2000
15.7 x 22.4 x 0.4 inch
Photography

$2,409

Michael Townsend, Doho, Photography

Michael Townsend

Doho, 2017
47.2 x 31.5 inch
Photography

$1,084

Our recommendations Sylvie Castioni, Léa, Photography

Sylvie Castioni

Léa, 2016
35.4 x 23.6 x 0.8 inch
Photography

$2,169

Our recommendations Xavier-Alexandre Pons, Pas peur, Photography

Xavier-Alexandre Pons

Pas peur, 2015
15.7 x 23.6 x 0.4 inch
Photography

$1,205

Arnaud Ele, Ambre, Photography

Arnaud Ele

Ambre, 2019
16.5 x 11.7 x 0.1 inch
Photography

$422

César Ordóñez, Koenji. Ashimoto series, Photography

César Ordóñez

Koenji. Ashimoto series, 2007
18.5 x 13.3 inch
Photography

$1,051 $1,166

Our recommendations Edgar Nabla, Follow, Photography

Edgar Nabla

Follow, 2018
31.5 x 23.6 x 0 inch
Photography

$1,928

Gwenaël Bollinger, L'envol, Photography

Gwenaël Bollinger

L'envol, 2013
19.7 x 19.7 x 0.4 inch
Photography

$651

Hannibal Renberg, Les Jumelles au chapeau, Photography

Hannibal Renberg

Les Jumelles au chapeau, 2017
15.4 x 15.4 inch
Photography

$964

Maurice Rebeix, Young Surfer, Photography

Maurice Rebeix

Young Surfer, 2001
15.7 x 23.6 inch
Photography

$482

Bernard Plossu, Sans titre 1, Photography

Bernard Plossu

Sans titre 1, 1988
5.1 x 7.1 inch
Photography

$1,205

Ed Reddon, Banana leaves #11, Photography

Ed Reddon

Banana leaves #11, 2020
46.3 x 23 x 0.4 inch
Photography

$1,880

Vladimir Bazan, Paris -  Rue des 3 frères, Photography

Vladimir Bazan

Paris - Rue des 3 frères, 2010
11 x 21.3 inch
Photography

$1,566

Olive Santaoloria, Série "Le Léviathan" - 11, Photography

Olive Santaoloria

Série "Le Léviathan" - 11, 2015
44.5 x 29.5 x 0.8 inch
Photography

$2,169

Fabian Albertini, Untitled, Photography

Fabian Albertini

Untitled, 2018
11.8 x 7.9 x 0.2 inch
Photography

$1,807

Sophie Patry, People, Photography

Sophie Patry

People, 2018
15.7 x 19.7 inch
Photography

$458

Lauric Gourbal, Distillerie, Photography

Lauric Gourbal

Distillerie, 2017
31.5 x 47.2 x 0 inch
Photography

$1,023

Franck Follet, Naked Beauty 22, Photography

Franck Follet

Naked Beauty 22, 2015
35.4 x 23.6 x 0.1 inch
Photography

$494

Paula Coderch, Lonely mall, Photography

Paula Coderch

Lonely mall, 2017
15.7 x 23.6 x 0 inch
Photography

$723

Our recommendations John French, Petal hat, Photography

John French

Petal hat, 2020
60 x 40 inch
Photography

$1,175

Lorenz Holder, Northern Bikers, Photography

Lorenz Holder

Northern Bikers, 2010
59.1 x 39.4 inch
Photography

$1,446

Sylvia Galmot, La parisienne vaut bien une messe, Photography

Sylvia Galmot

La parisienne vaut bien une messe, 2015
19.7 x 11.8 inch
Photography

$2,410

Frantisek Drtikol, 2 women with bouquet of roses, Photography

Frantisek Drtikol

2 women with bouquet of roses, 1919
10.2 x 7.5 inch
Photography

$1,446

Julia Beyer, Rêverie, Photography

Julia Beyer

Rêverie, 2017
11.8 x 11.8 x 0.4 inch
Photography

$482

Nadia Boukouti, Traits du Japon, Photography

Nadia Boukouti

Traits du Japon, 2017
11.8 x 11.8 x 0 inch
Photography

$554

Russ Martin, White Flower, Photography

Russ Martin

White Flower, 2009
12 x 18 inch
Photography

$602

Bertrand Noël, Dix fois Leos Carax - Naissance d'un pont , Photography

Bertrand Noël

Dix fois Leos Carax - Naissance d'un pont , 2014
19.7 x 29.5 inch
Photography

$1,928

Marek Olszewski, Awake - landscape photography, Photography

Marek Olszewski

Awake - landscape photography, 2020
27.6 x 27.6 x 1.6 inch
Photography

$1,900

Solomon Jamy Brown, Telltale, Photography

Solomon Jamy Brown

Telltale, 2018
27.6 x 19.7 x 0 inch
Photography

$1,384

Pierre Cherix, Free Spirit nº1, Photography

Pierre Cherix

Free Spirit nº1, 2017
27.6 x 19.7 x 0.1 inch
Photography

$433

Mairi-Luise Tabbakh, Eliane II, Photography

Mairi-Luise Tabbakh

Eliane II, 2009
9.4 x 11.8 inch
Photography

$1,130

Olivier Urfer, Riffelberg, Photography

Olivier Urfer

Riffelberg, 2014
27.6 x 27.6 x 0.2 inch
Photography

$1,748

Les Krims, Mary's Middle-Class, Photography

Les Krims

Mary's Middle-Class, 1985
15.4 x 19.3 x 0.2 inch
Photography

$1,446

Tim Hall, Dune XIV, Photography

Tim Hall

Dune XIV, 2004
15 x 15 x 1.6 inch
Photography

$2,169

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