Video on the 7Colours Project

a World History of Colour

Paint, the Face of Art


The main subject of the project and in this series of publications, is the international and inter-cultural development, use and meaning of Colour and Paint in the Arts, from early prehistory through to our present day.


‘A work of art exists by grace of the available materials used in it’s Creation’

The series, lectures and master-classes provide a detailed insight into the availability of the artist’s materials and the development of the crafts in the history of Art. Monica Rotgans takes the public and reader on a colourful journey of art appreciation and understanding through the eyes of the artist and craftsman.

Paint and Colour, the painter’s primary tools, are the basis of all painted art and an integrated part of decorative and sculpted art and architecture. They are usually chosen with care, and applied in the universal process of combining practical knowledge, technique and symbolic meaning. The full appreciation of a work of art is made possible through a complete understanding of the artist’s materials and choices, and their effects on the final result. How colour survives or vanishes through time and how we can learn to recognise the original palette that was selected to create a specific work of art.


The 7Colours Project is endorsed by

  • RCE – the Cutural Heritage Agency of the Netherlands
  • Rijksmuseum Conservation Department
  • Van Gogh Museum
  • Museum Catharijneconvent
  • Academie voor Kunst en Ambacht
  • Dr. Clothilde Roth-Meyer, Catholic University, Paris
  • René Boitelle, Senior Paintings Cons., Van Gogh Museum


Three books, e-books, and educational booklets for the universal Seven Basic Colours in Art

title 1: Blue & Green title 2: Red, Yellow & Earth title 3: White & Black

Lectures & MClasses

Monica has produced, and presents, a number of lectures and classes on the history of Paint, Painting & Colour,

Understanding Pigments and Colour, their characteristics, strengths and frailty, form the basis of Monica’s Teaching, her Museum Workshop Visits, Master Classes, and online Coaching,

click here for Monica’s Blog on Colour, Pigments & Art


‘Art itself cannot be taught, but craftsmanship can. Architects, painters, sculptors are all craftsmen in the original sense of the word. Thus it is a fundamental requirement of all artistic creativity that every student undergo a thorough training in the workshops of all branches of the crafts.’

Walter Gropius, founder of the Bauhaus, in 1919



Blauw Groen, Verf het gezicht van de Kunst, the first book of the series in Dutch

published September 2016 and available in (museum-)bookshops and on-line

read here the review in Kunstenaar.nl

read here the NOS review




“Looking at a painting whose colour harmonies have changed, is like trying to appreciate chamber music with one of the players missing.”

Richard Sennet




Probably Van Gogh's palette from Auvers sur Oise Probably Van Gogh’s palette from Auvers sur Oise


Van Gogh True Colours Project

Reconstructing Van Gogh’s original Colours and Paints

Van Gogh (1853-1890) is known as the painter of colourful works like ‘The sunflowers’, ‘Starry night’, ‘Almond blossom’ and ‘The bedroom’. Works which are the result of profound study of the characteristics of colour and painting-techniques and the innovations in the field of paint-manufacture during the Industrial Revolution. Innovations which swept like a tsunami through the studios of Western artists, soon to be followed by the rest of the world. It meant the end of a palette which had defined the Visual Arts since Prehistory.

As some of the traditional pigments and dyes, also the newly developed paints proofed to be unreliable. Some of the bright new pigments turned brown when exposed to light, some disappeared altogether, amputating the original colour-scheme of the painting. This discolouration has an enormous impact of our understanding of a painter’s intentions, because we are unable to follow his thinking and work in what we see. In the case of van Gogh his description of his paintings no longer match their actual state.

As a result of her research for the 7Colours project, Monica has developed a reconstruction method based on the characteristics of the original pigments, Van Gogh’s letters, and the available scientific and conservation research. In combination with her expertise as painter she can remake Van Gogh’s choices for specific paints and palettes. Consequently the intended colour-balance can be digitally restored after which the reconstruction shows how the painting originally may have looked.


'Irissen'' as on show in the Metropolitan Museum in New York.

‘Irissen” as on show in the Metropolitan Museum in New York.

Van Gogh describes ‘The irisses’ on May 11, 1890 as ‘…de grands bouquets de fleurs d’Iris violets, les unes contre un fond rose où l’effet est harmonieux et doux par la combinaison des verts, roses, violets….’. There is no mentioning of white and blue.


The partial reconstruction, based on the original pigments and Van Gogh’s colour-scheme.



‘…and paints resemble us more then they do bricks. They’re born, they grow old, and they die like us, and when they’re old, they can turn foolish, and even when they’re young, they can deceive you, and they’re actually capable of telling lies, pretending to be what they aren’t; to be sick when they’re healthy, and healthy when they’re sick.’ Primo Levi, ‘The monkey’s wrench’, 1978