7Colours Project

Paint, the Face of Art

A Work of Art exists by grace of the available Materials used by it’s Creator


The 7 Colours Project is motivated by the desire to re-establish and describe connections between the materials of the artists and the art world.

Monica has observed that the particular characteristics of materials used in creating art are often ignored, forgotten, or simply not referenced: artists, art historians, and curators working in the same practical and theoretical areas tend to operate in separate spheres.

Through an examination of the roots of the visual arts this project aims to bridge the gaps between the worlds of the professional visual artist and the art professionals.

The 7 Colours Project is a comprehensive follow-up of Monica’s 2005 publication “Paint, 500,000 Years of Paint and Painting”.


Overall subject in this Project is the international and inter-cultural development of Colour and Paint in the Arts. The use, the meaning, and the survival of paint as colour from early prehistory through to our present day.


The publications, lectures and master-classes provide a detailed insight into the development of the crafts, and importantly, the materials in the history of painted art. Monica Rotgans takes the reader on a journey of art appreciation and understanding through the eyes of the painter and craftsman.

A work of art exists by grace of the available materials used in it’s creation. Paint and colour, the artist’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 painting 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.


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

Paint, the Story of Art - Blue & Green - Red, Yellow & Earth - White & Black

Blue & Green – Red, Yellow & Earth – White & Black



Students of art history and art conservation, all artists and painters, art restorers, art collectors and the art viewing audience.

Project Endorsements

Letters of endorsement and co-operation are provided by the

  • RCE (Cultural Heritage Agency of the Netherlands)
  • Board of the Van Gogh Museum
  • the Rijksmuseum Restoration Department
  • Museum Catharijneconvent
  • Dr Clothilde Roth-Meyer at the Catholic University, Paris
  • R. Boitelle senior paintings conservator at Van Gogh Museum
  • AKA, the Academy for Art and Craft (Academie voor Kunst en Ambacht)

Contributions in support of this project can be made by contacting Monica Rotgans or via the Stichting Steps in 7 Colours Foundation Contributions are 125% tax deductible.

Lectures & Teaching

Monica has produced, and presents, a number of lectures on the history of Paint & Colour. Understanding Pigments and Colour, their characteristics, strengths and frailties, their history, and symbolic meaning in Art through the Ages.

Monica’s extended practical artistic experience and research form the basis of her Teaching, the Museum Workshops, Master Classes, and on-line Coaching.

Lectures & Teaching are available in Dutch, English and German

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

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

Blauw Groen, published September 2016 and available in (museum-)bookshops and on-line.

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

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.

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

Monica Rotgans

Monica Rotgans is an accomplished Dutch Artist, Researcher and Author

Monica graduated with honours and awards in 1977 from the Rijksacademie van Beeldende Kunsten Amsterdam , (State Academy for the Fine Arts). Working independently as an artist, author, researcher, and teacher, she has mastered a wide range of techniques and materials throughout her successful career.

Based on her intensive research and analysis of Pigments and Colour, Monica has developed a series of in-depth presentations and publications.This series presents the development of the various Historical and Contemporary Pigments and Paints in the Fine Arts. Their availability, meaning and survival in works of art and the underestimated impact of their discolouration and even complete disappearance as colour.

Art Works

Art Works by Monica Rotgans are on exhibition at her Studio Gallery in Amsterdam.


Click here for Monica’s Colours, Pigments & Arts Blog