Fascination Colour


Travelling exhibition since 2015

Colours, like the blue of heaven or the green of meadows, are often taken for granted. Thereby we forget, that we are surrounded by an almost unlimited diversity of colours all the time.

But what is it, that we call colour and how does it arise? Do all people see the same colours? What is metamerism and what is the history of the colour indigo?

In eight subject areas with many interactive exhibits this public science project by the Carl Bosch Museum shows exciting scientific relationships for all ages. We learn, how our brain influences our perception of colour or how cultural differences look like and various stories are to be discovered from cave painting to the newest colour developments.

After the first exhibition stop at the Carl Bosch Museum in Heidelberg (2015/16), the exhibition was on show at the Wilhelm Ostwald Museum in Großbothen near Leipzig (2015/16) and at the Science Center Audioversum in Innsbruck (2017/18). From April until October 2019 it can be visited at the Egerland-Museum in Marktredwitz.


Scientific Team: Sabine König, Jan Dübbers, Knut Völzke, Marion Jourdan, Bianca Flock, Hayo Hauptmann

Leise design team: Knut Völzke, Yamila Sauer, Vicky Corakas, Johannes Ott, Hans Hess, Nick Hoffmann

Purchaser: Carl Bosch Museum, Heidelberg

Date of origin: 2015

Surrounded by colours. The exhibition starts with a walk-in space, that shows the variety of our colourful world.
We live in a world full of colours. They help us with orientation and signal dangers, they arouse associations and can influence our mood.
What is colour? Light hits a surface; the reflected part reaches the eye as colour stimulus; the brain interprets the information and creates a «colour experience».
The media exhibit «electromagnetic spectrum» provides information about the relation of different wavelengths and their characteristics. From gamma rays to radio waves – and right in the middle there is a tiny area between 380 nm and 780 nm with the colour spectrum, that is visible for humans.

Colours can become visible in different ways. The exhibition shows principles of absorption, refraction, scatter and interference. Info graphics, media and hands-on exhibits explain the particularity of the origin of colour.

The central subject area «How we see colours?» shows the brain’s influence on our interpretation of colour and explains phenomenons of colour perception through interactive exhibits.
We are often confused about how colours merge. The colour mixture of light striking a surface differs from the one we perceive when colours reach our eyes directly. This exhibition station describes the connections and the differences between «luminous and surface colours» clearly by means of graphics and hands-on exhibits.
The station „how colours merge“ also includes an archive about the history of colour systems.
Cave paintings show, that humans have been using colours since the earliest times. Until the mid 19th century all dyes and pigments were of natural origin. Their manufacture was very complex and some are valuable commodities to this date.
Dyes and pigments are summarised under the term «colourants». Dyes can be dissolved in liquids and are often used for dyeing textiles or paper, whereas varnishes, paints or cosmetics contain tiny, insoluble particles, which are referred to as pigments.


The history of body painting for instance is told in different topic drawers.

Synthetically produced colours are referred to as modern colourants, which are available in a vast variety in our days. They are suitable for many different applications. Even self-luminous and thermo-reactive colours or varnishes with a flipflop-effect conquer our daily lives.
How a colour appears, depends on its intensity, its gloss and transparency level as well as the structure of the surface, that should be coloured. The samples on this wall show diverse influences of material characteristics on the color effect.
Which is the most frequently used colourant worldwide? Have little girls always been dressed in pink and boys in blue? Seven islands tell exciting colour stories.
Ever since the early Iron Age people have used certain lice as colourants. Since the discovery of America the cochineal louse is widely used. It lives on Prickly Pears and is collected, dried and ground at «harvest time». It can be used for colouring textiles, cosmetics and even food. Today we mostly use a synthetically produced colour, instead of the natural one, which is referred to as E 120, if it has a food approval. A cheap and controversial substitute is the azo dye named cochineal red A with the labelling E 124.
The colour gold is named after the precious metal of the same name. The term is taken from the Indo-European word «ghel», which means «shiny, yellow». The special appearance of the colour gold is based on the interaction with the metallic gloss of its surface.