Modern history[ edit ] In the 16th and 17th centuries[ edit ] While black was the color worn by the Catholic rulers of Europe, it was also the emblematic color of the Protestant Reformation in Europe and the Puritans in England and America. John Calvin , Philip Melanchthon and other Protestant theologians denounced the richly colored and decorated interiors of Roman Catholic churches.
They saw the color red, worn by the Pope and his Cardinals, as the color of luxury, sin, and human folly. In Protestant doctrine, clothing was required to be sober, simple and discreet. Bright colors were banished and replaced by blacks, browns and grays; women and children were recommended to wear white. The Catholic painters of the Counter-Reformation, like Rubens , went in the opposite direction; they filled their paintings with bright and rich colors.
The new Baroque churches of the Counter-Reformation were usually shining white inside and filled with statues, frescoes, marble, gold and colorful paintings, to appeal to the public. But European Catholics of all classes, like Protestants, eventually adopted a sober wardrobe that was mostly black, brown and gray. Increase Mather , an American Puritan clergyman American Pilgrims in New England going to church painting by George Henry Boughton, Rembrandt , Self-portrait In the second part of the 17th century, Europe and America experienced an epidemic of fear of witchcraft.
People widely believed that the devil appeared at midnight in a ceremony called a Black Mass or black sabbath, usually in the form of a black animal, often a goat, a dog, a wolf, a bear, a deer or a rooster, accompanied by their familiar spirits , black cats, serpents and other black creatures. This was the origin of the widespread superstition about black cats and other black animals. In medieval Flanders , in a ceremony called Kattenstoet, black cats were thrown from the belfry of the Cloth Hall of Ypres to ward off witchcraft.
During the notorious Salem witch trials in New England in —93, one of those on trial was accused of being able turn into a "black thing with a blue cap," and others of having familiars in the form of a black dog, a black cat and a black bird. In the 18th and 19th centuries[ edit ] In the 18th century, during the European Age of Enlightenment , black receded as a fashion color.
Paris became the fashion capital, and pastels, blues, greens, yellow and white became the colors of the nobility and upper classes. But after the French Revolution , black again became the dominant color. Black was the color of the industrial revolution , largely fueled by coal , and later by oil.
Thanks to coal smoke , the buildings of the large cities of Europe and America gradually turned black. A different kind of black was an important part of the romantic movement in literature.
Black was the color of melancholy , the dominant theme of romanticism. The novels of the period were filled with castles, ruins, dungeons, storms, and meetings at midnight. The leading poets of the movement were usually portrayed dressed in black, usually with a white shirt and open collar, and a scarf carelessly over their shoulder, Percy Bysshe Shelley and Lord Byron helped create the enduring stereotype of the romantic poet.
The invention of new, inexpensive synthetic black dyes and the industrialization of the textile industry meant that good-quality black clothes were available for the first time to the general population. In the 19th century gradually black became the most popular color of business dress of the upper and middle classes in England, the Continent, and America.
Black dominated literature and fashion in the 19th century, and played a large role in painting. James McNeil Whistler made the color the subject of his most famous painting, Arrangement in grey and black number one , better known as Whistler's Mother. Some 19th-century French painters had a low opinion of black: Nothing is black, nothing is gray. Manet's portrait of painter Berthe Morisot was a study in black which perfectly captured her spirit of independence. The black gave the painting power and immediacy; he even changed her eyes, which were green, to black to strengthen the effect.
When someone told him that black was not a color, Renoir replied: Black is the queen of colors. I always detested Prussian blue. I tried to replace black with a mixture of red and blue, I tried using cobalt blue or ultramarine, but I always came back to ivory black.
His painting of black crows over a cornfield, painted shortly before he died, was particularly agitated and haunting. In the late 19th century, black also became the color of anarchism. See the section political movements. Percy Bysshe Shelley in the black and white costume of the romantic poet The Theater Box by Pierre-Auguste Renoir , captured the luminosity of black fabric in the light. Wheat Field with Crows , one of the last paintings of Vincent van Gogh , captures his agitated state of mind.
In the 20th and 21st centuries[ edit ] In the 20th century, black was the color of Italian and German fascism. In art, black regained some of the territory that it had lost during the 19th century. The Russian painter Kasimir Malevich , a member of the Suprematist movement, created the Black Square in , is widely considered the first purely abstract painting.
He wrote, "The painted work is no longer simply the imitation of reality, but is this very reality It is not a demonstration of ability, but the materialization of an idea. I used black as ballast to simplify the construction Since the impressionists it seems to have made continuous progress, taking a more and more important part in color orchestration, comparable to that of the double bass as a solo instrument.
By the end of the 20th century, black was the emblematic color of the punk subculture punk fashion , and the goth subculture.
Goth fashion, which emerged in England in the s, was inspired by Victorian era mourning dress. In men's fashion, black gradually ceded its dominance to navy blue, particularly in business suits.
Black evening dress and formal dress in general were worn less and less. In , John F. Kennedy was the last American President to be inaugurated wearing formal dress; President Lyndon Johnson and all his successors were inaugurated wearing business suits.
Women's fashion was revolutionized and simplified in by the French designer Coco Chanel , who published a drawing of a simple black dress in Vogue magazine.
She famously said, "A woman needs just three things; a black dress, a black sweater, and, on her arm, a man she loves. The Italian designer Gianni Versace said, "Black is the quintessence of simplicity and elegance," and French designer Yves Saint Laurent said, "black is the liaison which connects art and fashion. The American civil rights movement in the s was a struggle for the political equality of African Americans.
It developed into the Black Power movement in the late s and s, and popularized the slogan " Black is Beautiful ". In the s, the Black Standard became the banner of several Islamic extremist , jihadist groups. The goth fashion model Lady Amaranth. Goth fashion was inspired by British Victorian mourning costumes. Variants of the Black Standard flag are used by many militant Islamist groups that have adopted militant interpretations of jihad.