Online Course: Colour

Mon 25 Oct, 10am (AEDT)

Past program

This program takes place virtually

We inhabit a world of infinite colour – it pervades nearly every aspect of our lives – but what is colour exactly and how does it work?

Discover the stories behind the colours we love and how artists and designers have used colour to convey meaning in this self-guided online course.

Over five weeks, NGV curators and guests guide participants through a study of the various facets of colour including colour theory, the history of pigments, the science behind colour and our relationship with it. Held in association with the exhibition Spectrum: An Exploration of Colour at NGV International, this online course explores the central role of colour in art and design throughout history.

Complete the course in your own time. Access to the course will be available from 10am on Monday 25 October.


Course enrolment
$44 Members / $49 Non-Members
Includes 8-week access to learning materials from the course start date (Monday 25 October). Access will expire at midnight on Sunday 19 December.


Week 1: An Introduction to Colour
We experience colour in our lives every day, but what if we stop and ask the question – what, in fact, is ‘colour’? To begin the course, we will learn the science behind colour and our perception of it and explore colour theory and the history of colour in art and design. How have artists and designers utilised the properties of colour and colour theory in their work?

Week 2: Artist’s Colours and Pigments
From the first pigments drawn out of the earth to our ongoing ingenuity in creating colours that were previously unavailable, colour has always played an integral role in the way we describe the world around us. What are the stories behind certain colours and how did they come to be produced and eventually used by artists and designers?

Week 3: The Science of Colour
Learn about how colour can be conserved, manipulated and analysed, from methods used by conservators to perceive colour, to fugitive pigments, re-touching and colour-matching. How does the colour we see in works of art and design impact their preservation and care? What can we learn about an artwork through the study of colours that have been used in their production?

Week 4: Symbolism and Uses of Colour
What do different colours symbolise? How does this symbolism differ between people, places and cultures? How are we influenced by colour? Discover the various ways that colour has been and continues to be used throughout history and around the world.

Week 5: Colour in the 20th and 21st Century – Politics, Gender, Commodification
How has colour been gendered, politicised and commodified in modern and contemporary society? Learn about the way colour continues to be used by artists and designers as a tool to effect change and communicate ideas.


  • Explain the basics behind the science of colour
  • Outline the key elements of colour theory
  • Look at the history and development of colour pigments
  • Discuss key examples of the influence of colour on art and design
  • Discuss the psychology of colour and our relationship with it
  • Identify, describe and analyse works of art and design in the NGV Collection with a focus on colour


Philip Ball is a freelance science writer and the author of many books, including Bright Earth: The Invention of Colour. He was previously an editor of the scientific journal Nature. His writings on science for the popular press have covered topical issues ranging from cosmology to the future of molecular biology. He has written widely on the interactions between art and science, and has delivered lectures to scientific and general audiences at venues ranging from the Victoria and Albert Museum (London) to the NASA Ames Research Center, London’s National Theatre and the London School of Economics.

Marcia Hall is the Laura H. Carnell Professor of Renaissance Art in the Tyler School of Art and Architecture at Temple University. She is a teacher and scholar of Italian Renaissance painting who has written widely on painting in the sixteenth century, Raphael, Michelangelo and those who followed them. She began her career studying the Counter-Reformation at a time when it was a neglected subject and continues to contribute with books authored and edited as well as professional lectures and graduate seminars. Her other particular interest is technical art history, especially the way painters used color. She has studied artists’ techniques using conservation laboratory research, most recently extending her reach to World War I in her recent book, The Power of Color. Five Centuries of European Painting.

Glenn Adamson is a curator and writer who works at the intersection of craft, design history and contemporary art. He has previously been Director of the Museum of Arts and Design; Head of Research at the V&A; and Curator at the Chipstone Foundation in Milwaukee.

Danielle Brustman is a designer working with a rich syntax of colour to conceive interiors and furniture that challenge our perception of private and public space. Prior to establishing her interior design studio in 2012, Brustman worked as a theatre designer collaborating with some of Australia’s most celebrated companies. Her installations and design work have been presented at Melbourne International Arts Festival (2012), Dark Mofo Festival (2015), Salon DelMobile, Milan (2019) and Melbourne Design Week (2020). Brustman’s installation Coloured in, 2020 is currently on display as part of the NGV Triennnial 2020 and her installation Inner – Terior was a finalist in the Rigg Design Prize 2018 at NGV. Danielle is the inaugural recipient of the Bank of Melbourne studio residency at Collingwood Yards.

David Coles is the Founder of Langridge Artist Colours, one of the world’s leading artists’ oil paint manufacturers. David was born in the UK where he studied painting at Bristol Art College under a traditional system learning colour, composition and the preparation and manufacture of artist’s paints. A further apprenticeship within the British art material manufacture and retail world furthered his knowledge in the specialised field of materials for artists and artisans. In 1992 David emigrated to Australia, determined to build a business on his knowledge and passion which led to him founding Langridge Artist Colours. In 2017 he created Chromatopia, an exhibition on the origins of colour. Thames & Hudson commissioned him to write an illustrated book on the subject that has become a world-wide best seller with 9 international editions. David’s knowledge of colour, from both an artistic, scientific and historical perspective, has seen him speak at institutions around the world.

Adam Ferrier is a multi-award winning advertising creative and founder of the agency Thinkerbell. He is also a leading Australian consumer psychologist, and brand strategist. Adam has written two books on advertising and is a regular media commentator.

Din Heagney is a writer, editor, researcher, art director and teacher. He was born of Irish descent in Melbourne/Narrm and was raised on Dja Dja Wurrung Country in Southeastern Australia where he currently lives. His writing about contemporary art, design and culture has appeared in Australia, USA, Germany, Italy and China. Din has developed projects for the Australia Council for the Arts, Venice Biennale of Art, Biennale of Sydney, Institute of Patent and Trade Mark Attorneys, and as artistic director of Platform Artists Group. From 2014–20, he worked at The University of Melbourne, RMIT University, Monash University, and the University of NSW, in a range of roles including research assistance, academic editing, developing and delivering new courses in design, and teaching hundreds of talented students from Australia and around the world.

Dr Hannah McCann is a Senior Lecturer in Cultural Studies and ARC DECRA Fellow at The University of Melbourne. Her research is located within critical femininity studies. Hannah’s first book Queering Femininity: Sexuality, Feminism and the Politics of Presentation was published in 2018, and her co-authored textbook Queer Theory Now: From Foundations to Queer Futures was released in 2020. Her work can also be found in The Conversation, The Wheeler Centre blog, and Overland, and via her blog

Timothy Moore is a Director of Sibling Architecture, lecturer of architecture at Monash University and a curator of Melbourne Design Week, presented by the NGV. He has worked as an editor at Volume, Architecture Australia and Future West (Australian Urbanism).

Andrea Lucena-Orr is the Colour and Communications Manager for DuluxGroup. Andrea joined the company with a strong background in colour and design and has been working with colour for over twenty-five years at DuluxGroup executing colour training, trends and colour forecasting and presenting her findings to trade, retail and media – and her recommendations play an integral part in Dulux marketing strategies. Andrea is a member of the international Colour Marketing Group (CMG) and scours the globe in pursuit of her passion – colour forecasting.

Brad Haylock is a designer, publisher and academic. He is an Associate Professor in the School of Design at RMIT University, Melbourne, where he is Coordinator of Higher Degrees by Research. His research spans typography, publishing, critical theory and the sociology of critique.

Dr Tessa Laird is a Lecturer in Critical and Theoretical Studies in the School of Art of the Victorian College of the Arts, The University of Melbourne and the author of A Rainbow Reader, a book inspired by the power of colour.

Susie May is a freelance writer and lecturer in the fields of art, history and literature. She was an educator at the National Gallery of Victoria for 19 years, where she was passionate about inspiring all types of learners to think and learn creatively through art. Her role at NGV involved teaching, writing educational resources and working collaboratively to create short courses for adults. Susie retired from the NGV in 2020 in order to have more time to pursue her own writing and art making. Currently, she is co–authoring a book on teaching creative writing inspired by art and presents online courses and lectures for the University of the Third Age.

Simone LeAmon is the Hugh D.T. Williamson Curator of Contemporary Design and Architecture at the National Gallery of Victoria (NGV) and cocurates the department’s extensive program of commissioning, collecting and exhibiting Australian and international contemporary design and architecture, including the annual Melbourne Design Week. Exhibitions include the NGV Triennial (2017 and 2020), Black Bamboo: Contemporary Furniture Design from Mer (2019), Lucy McRae: Body Architect (2019), Designing Women (2018), Rigg Design Prize (2015 and 2018), and Melbourne Now (2013). Simone joined the NGV following two decades working as an industrial designer, design strategist, visual artist, freelance curator and academic. She is an Adjunct Professor in the School of Design and Social Context at RMIT University.

Amanda Dunsmore is Senior Curator of International Decorative Arts and Antiquities at the National Gallery of Victoria (NGV) and studied Fine Art and Egyptology at Monash University. She worked for many years as a ceramic specialist in Egypt before broadening her curatorial practice in the field of European decorative arts. Her research interests include late eighteenth century English interior design, in particular the work of James Wyatt, and early twentieth century design and the rise of modernism. She has curated numerous exhibitions for the NGV, including Spectrum: An Exploration of Colour (2021), Japonisme: Japan and the Birth of Modern Art (2018), Nordic Cool: Modernist Design from the NGV Collection (2015) and Bugatti: Carlo, Rembrandt, Ettore, Jean (2009).

Dr Ted Gott is Senior Curator of International Art at the National Gallery of Victoria (NGV). He has curated and co-curated more than 25 exhibitions, including Salvador Dalí: Liquid Desire and Napoleon: Revolution to Empire. He has published widely on Australian, British and French art, and in 2013 co-authored a cultural history of the gorilla in nineteenth and twentieth century art, literature, scientific discourse and cinema (Gorilla, Reaktion Press, London).

Beckett Rozentals is Curator of Australian Painting, Sculpture and Decorative Arts to 1980 at the National Gallery of Victoria (NGV). After completing her Master of Art Curatorship at the University of Melbourne in 2009, Beckett began work at the NGV as an Assistant Curator before commencing her current position in 2015. Highlights of Beckett’s career at the NGV include the curation of Robert Jacks: Order and Variation in 2014, Hard edge: Abstract Sculpture in 2016, and the co-curation of The Field Revisited with NGV Director Tony Ellwood AM in 2018. Beckett is currently curating the forthcoming exhibition Rosalie Gascoigne | Lorraine Connelly-Northey with fellow NGV Curator, Myles Russell-Cook.

Hannah Presley is Curator of Indigenous Art at the National Gallery of Victoria (NGV). Hannah works closely with artists to respectfully represent the cultural connections that inform their work. Hannah was the inaugural Yalingwa curator at the Australian Centre for Contemporary Art (ACCA), where she curated A Lightness of Spirit is the Measure of Happiness (2018), and was First Nations Assistant Curator for Tracey Moffatt at the 57th Venice Biennale in 2017.

Jessica Cole is Assistant Curator, Prints and Drawings at the National Gallery of Victoria (NGV). Jessica studied History of Art at the University of Edinburgh in 2006–10, and completed her Masters at the Courtauld Institute of Art, London in 2011, specialising in the history of European print culture. She was Assistant Curator for the NGV exhibition Escher x nendo: Between Two Worlds (2018).

Danielle Whitfield is Curator of Fashion and Textiles at the National Gallery of Victoria (NGV). Since joining the NGV Danielle has curated numerous exhibitions and spoken and published widely on the history of Australian and international fashion. Recent projects and scholarly contributions include Collecting Comme (2019), The Krystyna Campbell Pretty Fashion Gift (2019) and The House of Dior: Seventy Years of Haute Couture (2017).

Wayne Crothers is Senior Curator, Asian Art at the National Gallery of Victoria (NGV). He spent a total of eighteen years living in Japan, including two years at Kyoto Seika University researching traditional Japanese art practices, completed a two-year Master of Fine Art Degree at Tama Art University in Tokyo, and lectured for six years at Musashino Art University in Tokyo. Recent exhibitions include Terracotta Warriors: Guardians of Immortality (2019), Cai Guo-Qiang: The Transient Landscape (2019) and Japanese Modernism (2020).

Katie Somerville is Senior Curator, Fashion and Textiles, at the National Gallery of Victoria (NGV). She has worked with a range of fashion and textiles collections for close to three decades, including at the National Gallery of Australia and Historic Houses Trust of NSW. During her time at the NGV she has curated and co-curated numerous exhibitions including The House of Dior: Seventy Years of Haute Couture (2017), Making the Australian Quilt: 1800–1950 (2016), Express Yourself: Romance Was Born for Kids (2014–15), Martin Grant, Paris (2005–06) and Akira Isogawa: Printemps-Été (2004–05).

Charlotte Botica is Curatorial Assistant, Fashion and Textiles at the National Gallery of Victoria (NGV). She holds an Associate Degree in Fashion Design and Technology (RMIT University) and Bachelor of Textile Design (Massey University) and is currently completing a Masters of Cultural Heritage at Deakin University.

Susan van Wyk has been the Senior Curator of Photography at the National Gallery of Victoria (NGV) since 2012. Since joining the Gallery in 1989, she has curated numerous exhibitions of Australian and international photography. Recent exhibitions include: Olympia: Photographs by Polixeni Papapetrou, Turning Points: Contemporary Photography from China, Alex Prager, Follow the Flag: Australian artists and war 1914-1945, Edward Steichen and Art Deco Fashion, and Thomas Demand. Susan is the author of numerous articles, catalogues and books on photography including: Olympia: Photographs by Polixeni Papapetrou, Henry Talbot: 1960s fashion photographer, No Standing Only Dancing: Photographs by Rennie Ellis, The Paris End: Photography Fashion and Glamour, and co-author of Second Sight: Australian Photography in the collection of the National Gallery of Victoria.

Meg Slater is Assistant Curator, International Exhibition Projects at the National Gallery of Victoria (NGV). Since 2017, Meg has worked on a number of the NGV’s major international exhibitions, including MoMA at NGV: 130 Years of Modern and Contemporary Art (2018), Alexander Calder: Radical Inventor (2019), Keith Haring / Jean-Michel Basquiat: Crossing Lines (2019-20), and the forthcoming French Impressionism from the Museum of Fine Arts Boston (2021) and Queer (2021-22). Prior to the her role at NGV, Meg completed internships in the Curatorial, Exhibitions Management and Public Programs departments of several museums including the Victoria & Albert Museum in London and the Brooklyn Museum in New York. In 2016, Meg graduated from the University of Queensland with a Dual Degree in Art History and Business. Meg is currently undertaking a Master of Art Curatorship at The University of Melbourne.

Holly McGowan-Jackson is Senior Conservator of Frames and Furniture at the National Gallery of Victoria (NGV). She joined the NGV team in 1996 following studies at the University of Canberra and an 18-month Andrew Mellon Fellowship in Furniture Conservation at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York. Holly coordinates programs for the conservation of picture frames and furniture, as well as the reframing of artworks based on historical evidence. She manages the NGV Centre for Frame Research and is currently undertaking in-depth research into nineteenth century Melbourne frame makers and the conservation of coatings on gilded surfaces.

Carl Villis is the Senior Conservator of Paintings at the National Gallery of Victoria (NGV).He has specialised in the conservation of Old Master paintings for nearly thirty years at the NGV, and in art museums in Italy and the United States.At the Gallery he has conducted major conservation treatments and technical research on paintings by many artists in the collection, including Correggio, Titian, Tintoretto, Veronese, Rubens and Giambattista Tiepolo.He frequently combines his technical analysis of paintings with art historical research and has published studies on works by Poussin, Van Dyck and Bernardo Bellotto, among others. In 2013-14 he was a Craig Hugh Smyth Visiting Fellow at Harvard University’s Centre for Renaissance Studies at the Villa I Tatti in Florence for the purpose of researching and writing a book on his identification of the Gallery’s early sixteenth-century portrait of Lucrezia Borgia.

Raymonda Rajkowski is Conservator of Paintings at the National Gallery of Victoria (NGV) where she specialises in modern and contemporary paintings and materials research. She has a background in fine arts and art history, and holds a Masters degree in conservation from the Grimwade Centre for Cultural Materials Conservation, The University of Melbourne. She is currently completing PhD research on the relationship between acrylic paints and Australian colourfield painting.

Jessica Lehmann is Conservation Project Officer at the National Gallery of Victoria (NGV). Jessica studied Art History and Fine Arts at Monash University and joined the NGV after working as an interior designer. Prior to working at the NGV she was a freelance creative with projects at Seventh Gallery, Australian Centre for Contemporary Art (ACCA) and Monash University Museum of Art (MUMA), wrote for art exhibitions, and participated in John Baldessari’s student wall-painting exhibition and Jen Bervin’s only Australian experimental writing workshop. A historian and writer, Jessica is currently undertaking research into nineteenth century Melbourne frame makers at the NGV and pursuing a creative writing practice.

Trude Ellingsen is Conservator of Objects at the National Gallery of Victoria (NGV). She joined the conservation department in 2003 after completing qualifications in decorative plaster restoration from Oslo, Norway and Conservation of Cultural Materials from the University of Canberra. Trude is interested in a broad range of subjects from conservation of delicate eighteenth century porcelain figurines to preservation of plastics and neon lights.

Caitlin Breare joined the National Gallery of Victoria (NGV) as Conservator of Paintings in 2018, returning to her home city of Melbourne after over eight years studying and working in conservation in the USA, including projects in Spain (Museo del Prado), Italy (Villa La Pietra, NYU) and Turkey (Aphrodisias excavation, NYU/University of Oxford). She holds a Masters in Conservation and Art History from New York University, and prior to the NGV was a paintings conservator at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston specialising in research and treatment of old master paintings.

Pip Morrison is Conservator of Photographs at the National Gallery of Victoria (NGV). She joined the conservation team at the NGV after completing an internship at the Ian Potter Art Conservation Centre in Melbourne, and the Andrew W. Mellon Advanced Residency Program in Photograph Conservation at the George Eastman House and the Image Permanence Institute in Rochester, New York. Her research areas have primarily been in colour and contemporary photographic materials.

Louise Wilson has been Conservator of Paper at the National Gallery of Victoria (NGV) since 2008 and is responsible for the care of the NGV’s rich paper-based holdings including books, prints, drawings and paintings of diverse ages and origins, Asian hanging scrolls and folding screens. Louise has broad research interests and has published nationally and internationally on a range of subjects including the conservation of Middle Eastern manuscripts, treatment of Indian papercuts, technical examination of eighteenth-century tapa cloth from the Pacific region, art paper supply in Australia and the materials and techniques of William Blake and Albrecht Dürer.

Skye Firth is the Senior Conservator of Fashion and Textiles at the National Gallery of Victoria (NGV). Since graduating with a Masters of Arts (Conservation) from The University of Melbourne, she worked in private conservation practice in Sydney at International Conservation Services. Her interests have focused on the preservation of costumes within House Museums, treatment of military flags, conservation of nineteenth century silks and historical dyes on embroidery. She joined the conservation team at the NGV in 2017.

Kate Douglas is a Conservator of Textiles at the National Gallery of Victoria (NGV). Kate has a background in Fine Arts and graduated from University of Auckland with a Bachelor of Fine Art. She continued her studies at the University of Canberra to achieve a Bachelor of Applied Science specialising in Textile Conservation. Kate began working at the NGV in 2000 and since then has worked on a wide range of textile exhibitions in the very busy textiles program. Kate has studied and has a particular interest in furs in the collection, eighteenth century costume and seventeenth century raised embroidery.

Ruth Shervington is the Senior Conservator of Paper at the National Gallery of Victoria (NGV). Having trained in London, Ruth worked privately for several years in an established London practice. Ruth has been at the NGV for the past 25 years and in her time has gained considerable experience in many of different fields represented in the Prints and Drawings, Asian and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander collections. Exhibitions that involved her extensive research and involvement have included Rembrandt in the collection of the NGV; Goya: Reason and Folly, Animals in Asian Art and Hokusai. Ruth has broad research interests that span Europe and Asia, predominantly looking into materials and techniques.

Marika Strohschnieder is the Senior Conservator of Objects at the National Gallery of Victoria (NGV) and looks after a large and varied collection of three-dimensional works of art. She has worked in cultural institutions in five countries including at the National Museums of Berlin and the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Marika’s contributions since joining the NGV in 2003 span from extensive treatments on polychrome wood, stone and ceramic sculptures, to developments of display mounts and participation in research projects. Notable research projects include the technical analysis of the materials used in the construction of the Egyptian coffin lid of Tjeseb and a comprehensive technical investigation of the NGV’s collection of Italian Maiolica with associated publication, a collaborative effort between NGV and the Ashmolean Museum in Oxford.

Raye Collins is Conservator of Paintings at the National Gallery of Victoria (NGV). She joined the Paintings team as a H.D.T. Williamson Fellow in 2007, after completing qualifications in Art History and Cultural Materials Conservation at the University of Melbourne. Raye specialises in the conservation of twentieth century paintings and is currently pursuing technical research on modern varnishes.

Closed Captions Asia Australia Conservation Contemporary Decorative Arts Design Fashion & Textiles Gender Indigenous International Modernism NGV Collection Painting Photography Prints & Drawings Virtual


The NGV is grateful to the Ken and Asle Chilton Trust, managed by Perpetual, for their support of this program.