Living with Art // The Beauty of Black & White

Black and white speaks strongly to me, I have always been a fan of the contrasting beauty of the opposite colors. In artwork, black and white starts with simple line drawings, and progresses to photography and on to stark and high impact abstract paintings. Depending upon the genre, and the use of grey, which softens the contrast, the beauty of black and white artwork is that it suits all types of interiors, from traditional to the most modern, from serious to playful. I feel the same about using black and white in other ways, from clothing to accessories, the use of black and white is timeless and works with all styles.  

Charcoal, a natural material was the first medium to be used in art. An artist’s training begins with pencil and charcoal, learning to draw. The classic beauty of a line drawing, a portrait, or a nude, stands alone as an artwork or is great to pair with other types of art. It can live comfortably in all types of interiors. Artist Claudia Mengel creates beautiful color-drenched paintings, but I am drawn to her classic figure drawings, Conversations ll,

and also large brushstroke paintings on paper

Black and white photography is always classic and timeless. Through the lens, the photographer is capturing an image, a form, that has clarity in black, white and the spectrum of greys in between. The use of grey softens the contrast of black and white. In this traditional home, Connecticut designer David Hammond used a tonal palette of soft greys and whites. Our client selected Michael Anderson's large scale black and white sunflower which adds a modern touch, due to its size and sideways orientation.

We see color based on light absorption. Black absorbs all light, whereas white reflects it. When together, there is graphic impact created by being opposites of the spectrum of light. Zebras are a natural example. In interiors and clothing, animal prints are often used as an accessory, the touch of nature's patterns, compliment traditional to modern decor and dress. Photographer Stuart Zaro's Two Zebras, framed in plexi is at once modern, natural and classic. Shown here in Nest Inspired Home in Rye

Horses are a much-loved subject of photographers and as a choice for interiors. The incredible physical beauty of horses is best captured in black and white, like this intimate portrait from the St Moritz Series by Shelli Breidenbach

There is much symbolism associated with the dualism of black and white. In Eastern culture, “The black and white halves of the Yin-Yang symbol are similar to the two sides of a coin. They are different, and distinct, yet one could not exist without the other.”  In Western culture, they depict opposites, good and evil, light and dark, white hat and black hat.

This series of feathers, by Michael Anderson, shown in reverse, black on white, white on black, plays on this dualism.

Artist Andrea Bonfils' work is influenced by her love of nature. In her new print collection, she created variations of a favorite subject, Aspen trees. A black and white version, printed on handmade artisanal paper accentuates the abstracted form of the trees.

Kerri Rosenthal, known for her colorful paintings, always has black and whites works in her collection. She “enjoys painting in black and white because it its the most extreme of contrast… they may just be the best two colors as they allow all the other colors of the room to shine....the most neutral of color combo’s, the Switzerland of colors, and can help with layering in homes - usually they go with any other paintings in the room,  no matter what the color scheme or the design plan.” From small paintings on paper, as this one recently featured in the NYTimes Home section, (thanks to the framing of Simply Framed!). The crisp artwork looks great contrasted to the mix of materials and color on the natural wood desk.

to large bold canvases, like Timeless, which displays the influence of Abstract Expressionist painters. The painting brings this room together, the large sale balances the natural stone and the details of the Missoni chevron fabrics within the large space.

The clean look of black and white works beautifully alone, but it's also a great choice to among other elements, it can compliment a colorful wall, artwork or fabric. It doesn't mean the absence of color, but rather used to calm and balance a colorful palette. Our client was looking for something to work with Chelsea Bubble by photographer Kit Kittle and the natural textures and colors in her living room,  designed by Mara Solow Interiors. Kerri’s small black and white painting, framed in an elegant metallic frame is a visual counterpoint to the larger colorful photo and the furnishings.

This fun installation by Kerri, an abstract wall painting makes a bold statement in an otherwise quiet white bedroom

Bold, fun, stark & serious, all describe different black and white artworks and their accompanying interiors. There is a quieter side, when grey is used to soften the extremes. Artist Xanda McCagg takes a break from her usual colorful works to do studies in black, white and grey

Photographer John Duckworth creates abstracted landscapes of his local South Carolina coastline. I first saw his work at a Holly Hunt showroom. Here are two different grey to black vertical pieces hanging side by side, the effect is dramatic but subtle.

Whether using the contrast of black and white alone, or softened with greys, artwork in the black-white spectrum is appealing and comfortable to live with. There is something easy about the choice, calming and classic, but not boring. It is natural, crisp and a timeless choice when selecting artwork.