Modern Quilting Blogcarolina oneto quilts

If you go to any modern museum throughout the world, you will see contemporary paintings and other artwork produced by today’s most popular artists. Many of these paintings will utilize color theory in a wide variety of exciting ways. Let’s take a look at some of the paintings that have been on display throughout the famous museums throughout the world and see how the artists employ color theory. These modern paintings can also be an inspirational source for your quilts. 

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Museum of Modern Art In New York 

In the Museum of Modern Art in New York, you will find a diverse collection of paintings by artists from all over the world. One art collection that makes interesting use of color is by Racque Ford. One piece in this collection is entitled Leaving a mark that destroys. This piece uses different values of green to create diversity in the painting. 

Another unique artist in the Museum of Modern Art’s collection is Jeffrey Gibson. One of the pieces in his collection is entitled I AM A RAINBOW TOO. From a perspective of color theory, complementary colors are used in this painting in a very interesting manner. On the left and right side of the painting, you will find blues and reds or purples and oranges. As you move into the center of the painting, you will see that the colors in the interior of the painting are complements of the ones that are on the outside of the painting. This painting can be a useful way to structure colors and shapes within your own quilts. 

Museum of Modern Art in New York. Source:

San Francisco Museum of Modern Art 

At the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, you will tend to find paintings spread out a little bit more evenly throughout the 20th century. There are a fair number of works from the turn of the century and from the early 21st century. One of the most striking usage of colors is in a painting called Untitled by Etel Adnan from 2018. In this painting, there are a lot of secondary and tertiary colors being used, as well as unique colors that are the result of working with different hues. The dark tan looking color in the center has an RGB of 157, 70, 75, which utilizes red as a hue. Even though there are no primary colors and scant secondary colors used on this painting, the artist is making a play off the relationship between red/green on the color wheel. 

Another unique artwork in the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art is Geoffrey Hendricks and Bryan by Alice Neel from 1978. In this painting, Neel painted two of her friends from real life who happened to be wearing the exact same clothes that they had worn at an event the night before. The two partners wore complementary colors by chance, in the red and green sweater. There are many “opposite” aspects of the two subjects in the painting in real life that are captured in the moment by the different colors they are wearing. 

San Francisco Museum of Modern Art. Source:

The Tate Modern 

The Tate Modern is located in London. This museum has different types of artwork that has been considered “cutting edge” throughout all of history. In this museum, there are over 5,000 artists to browse and their work. One particularly interesting piece is by Chris Martin who was born in 1954. The painting on display called Untitled originates in the 1970s. This painting makes nice use of red and green, but also makes very subtle accents using their different hues. A repeated pattern is used to create a large painting. Such an approach and balance of color can be used to achieve similar results in quilting. 

Untitled 2013 Chris Martin born 1954 Presented by Tate Members 2017. Source: Tate Modern

Centre Pompidou 

This is a museum of modern art located in Paris. In this museum, you will find masterpieces from throughout the 20th and 21st centuries. One interesting painting in this collection is entitled Mit dem schwarzen Bogenby Vassily Kandinsky. In this particular painting hues and saturations help add a sense of unity to the painting, created from dissonance. In the painting, colors help define proportion and the moment that is unfolding in time. 

Vassily Kandinsky
« Mit dem schwarzen Bogen (Avec l’Arc noir) », 1912. Source: Centre Pompidou

There are other unique paintings that appear in the collections at Centre Pompidou. There is a painting called New York City by Piet Mondrian. In this painting, the simple use of red, blue, and yellow, the primary colors, is intended to capture the business and soul of America during the “boogie woogie” era of the 1940s. 

What Can Art & Color Theory Teach You About Quilting? 

Modern artwork uses color theory in a wide variety of different ways. The most important thing that one can learn is spontaneity and the capturing of the moment, something that is extremely helpful to improvisational quilting. You will also learn different themes that will help you come up with different color ideas:

  • Simplicity: In New York City, a great piece of art is created with just the three primary colors.
  • How To Emulate Life: There may be themes in your life, such as the friendship captured in Geoffrey Hendricks and Bryan. The use of complementary colors captures on the relationship between the two subjects of the painting.
  • Capturing the Moment In Color: You can also choose to work with complementary colors to capture proportion in a unique way. I AM A RAINBOW TOO makes use of complementary colors to capture the movement of a rainbow and this painting conveys ways that you could utilize color to unify your entire quilt. 

If you are interested in learning more about colors in your quilting, look no further than a quilting course that explores the nuances of color and how you can apply color theory to your quilting practice.