Psychology of colour.
(Collection of papers),
Press House "Refl-book",
Moscow, 1996 (in Russian)
ISBN 5-87983 - 027-6

In today's Russia it is impossible to foresee what kind of books will be on sale in a week. In the former USSR, the publishing houses had the thoroughly and strictly specialized programs of work. For this reason a reader was informed in advance about the new fresh stock of books. Be it as it may, a great number of books was printed; they were published in large editions and subsidized by the State. For this reason they were extremely cheap; so it was not surprizing that an ordinary engineer or a teacher could have the library containing hundreds and even thousands of books. We must note however, that the most interesting world novelties of foreign press houses were not published in the USSR at all, and we were left, very often, without knowing about what happens in science and art of other countries.

At present, books of all kinds are published, including detective novels, thrillers, erotics, science fictions - in a word, all things that can show a profit. Also published is a great number of the near-scientific literature of obvious shaman's sense (parapsychology, theosophy, and so on). At the same time, it should be noted that there appear also the serious publications in the field of psychology, philosophy, history, and art theory of both Russian authors and foreign authors (in Russian translation). It is true, that all these editions are now very expensive (otherwise, it is impossible to get profit when printing with high quality in small copies). Besides, we must note one peculiarity: for the most part, our readers could be acquainted only with West literature published before 1973. The matter is that it is this year when the former Soviet Union has signed the Bern Convention on Author's Rights that makes publishers incumbent upon observance of these rights with respect to the foreign literature "after 1973". That is the reason why the Russian book publishers translate so actively and in the first line the things published "before 1973", since there is no necessity to pay in this case royalties to foreign authors. The herein reviewed book is the prominent example of such "simple arithmetics". Nonetheless, we must emphasize the fact that the book does not loose in its value, since it presents the materials that "do not become obsolete with time". Be it as it may, a researcher of culture history must know about this edition.

The basis of the book, more specifically, its half, form the reports of the conference "The Realms of Colour" that was held in 1972 in Switzerland. It includes such works as the "Conception of Colour and Colour Symbolism in Ancient World" by Christopher Rowe and article "White, Red, and Black: Colour Symbolism in Black Africa" by Dominique Zahan; the confent of the latter article turns the readers' mind to another continent and another culture. Back in Europe returns us Ernst Benz that familiarizes us with the problem "Colour in Christian Apparitions". Studying the "theology of colour", he presents, after the "colour analysis" of biblical and evangelical texts, the survey of, so to say, personal conceptions of colour; among other persons, we can see such names as Dionysius the Areopagite, Jacob Boehme, Emanuel Svegenborg, I.W.Goethe, and others. The historical, ethnographic and culturological material of these articles is undoubtfully of great interest, especially when comparing them.

Immediately connected with the theme of art is the article (more exactly, report) "Colour and Expression of Internal Time in the West European Painting" by Rene Huyghe. The special interest presents here the thorough analysis of analogy between "colour and music" that is not, perhaps, comprehended by artists and that rests upon the fact that both colour and music are for European the synonyms of sensuality and soul. Then, quite unexpectedly, there appear in this collection of papers the extensive fragments from the well-known work "0n Spiritual in Art" by W.Kandinsky (the Russian text is given here in the version taken from its American edition (New York, 1977, in Russian); this fact, unfortunately, was not mentioned by the book publisher. After this unexpected "intrusion" of conception of colour psychology and aesthetics so near to us in time, the collection compilers return anew to "historical and regional" principle by introduction the report taken from the conference in Switzerland "Elimination of Colour in Art and Philosophy of the Far East" by Toshihiko Izutsu.

It is very difficult to comprehend the logic of collection's compiler (let us call him, finally, by name- it is a certain S.L.Udovik). After "making a travel" in the picturesque past of Japan and China, a reader, again quite unexpectedly, sees the reprint of the present-day materials of well-known Soviet film producer S.Eisenstein entitled "Colour in Cinema". The book is completed - please guess by what, - by fragments taken from Goethe's work "Studies of Colour". The collection's compiler warns that this work of Goethe could stand equally at the very beginning of the book, hinting thereby that he pays compliment to the great German poet...

Of course, such "cocktail" prepared from so different articles about colour has a right for existence, the more so that not every gourmet will cater for such fastidious taster as me, the reviewer of this book.

In spite of the fact that the readers could familiarize themselves with the works of Goethe, Kandinsky, Eisenstein in earlier basic Russian editions, the collection of papers (though so different) about psychology and aesthetics of colour will be, undoubtfully, useful for Russian readers. As to the "Leonardo" readers, I hope that it will be useful for them to know more about complicated conditions and situations under which their colleagues from the present-day Russia obtain their knowledge.

Bulat Galeyev