Colour in the 1920s

Research project key facts
Project title Colour in the 1920s: Cinema and its Intermedial Context
School Arts
Department Drama: Film, Theatre, Television
Dates 30 September 2012 - 30 September 2015
Funder The Leverhulme Trust: Research Project Grant
Contact Professor Sarah Street

More about this project

The 1920s was a decade when debates about colour were intense concerning its cultural, scientific, philosophical and educational significance. Before the First World War, Germany dominated international colorant production, owning most of the modern dye patents and factories. During the shortages of the war, colour usage diminished, but following the break-up of Germany’s chemical patents as part of war reparations, colour surged internationally as a defining aspect of culture. In the art, advertising, architecture and cinema of the jazz age, cultural fascination with colour was lively and ranged across media and disciplines.

This project aims to investigate the major spheres of colour expression in motion pictures of the 1920s. Taking cinema as the galvanizing focus, it will contextualise colour’s intermedial role in other arts—including commercial and print culture; fashion and industry; theatre and the performing arts—in order to produce a fully comprehensive, comparative study that situates colour cinema firmly within the chromatic culture of its time. The project team will research the plethora of debates that circulated around colour as it was implemented in art and commerce during the 1920s. The team will also investigate how these relate to specific issues in the history of cinema, such as the impact of the coming of sound on colour.

People involved in this project

Principal investigator: