Submission deadline:

April 14, 2023

Deep White: Myths, Materialities, and Ideologies of an Ambivalent Colour  

October 26-28, 2023

Scientists from Kronos Titan investigating weather tests of
white paint in Fredrikstad, Norway, 1950s. Østfoldmuseene’s archive

Thursday 26 to Saturday 28 October 2023 at The Norwegian Institute at Athens (Greece)   

On the traditional colour wheel, white does not feature. Defined as achromatic, meaning that it has no hue, white has been considered a non-colour which reflects and scatters all the visible wavelengths of light. However, in addition to such a scientific definition, the experience of colour—as Goethe pointed out in Theory of Colours (1810)—is equally culturally as well as biologically founded.  Some of these cultural myths and ideologies of white are well-established in a Western art historical context: From J.J. Winckelmann’s desire for white marble bodies, the claimed “neutrality” of the white cube, and questions of whiteness in current political and societal debates. It is also known that the perception of the colour as “superior” to other colours is shaped by the legacy and reception of an ideal image of antiquity in 18th Century art historical discourse.  

Which unexpected and unexplored trajectories of the colour white in art history and theory might nuance and broaden the understanding of the colour? Which other stories of white may open up conflicting symbolic and political meanings about white colour in a global world? What are the historical preconditions for connecting white with notions such as purity, progress, and utopianism? What are the ambivalent myths and ideologies about this achromatic non-colour not featured on the colour wheel?   

Deep White is a three-day symposium that will seek to foster discussions on multiple aspects and challenges of dealing with the colour white in art history.  

The organizers seek to build dialogue among scholars engaged in interdisciplinary art historical research and to foster conversation on how to examine the different, yet entangled stories of white colour. Topics may include, but are not limited, to the following themes:     


·                     Classical White: uncovering new histories of the legacy and reception of the idea of a white Antiquity.    

·                     Material White: revealing the material aspects of various white pigments, their extractive, and trading histories.   

·                     Utopian White: exploring the connection of white colour to ideas of purity, progress, and utopianism.   

·                     White Hierarchies: Investigating consequences of colour hierarchies. 

·                     White Light: examining ritual and religious stories of white and light.    


The symposium will result in an English-language publication aimed to be published at an international university press.   

Please submit a title, a 300-word abstract, and a short biography (max 100 words) by 14 April 2023 to

 The final programme for Deep White will be announced on 28th April 2023  

The symposium is organized by the research project TiO2: How Norway Made the World Whiter funded by The Research Council of Norway (2023 – 2028) and is a part of the project’s “Work Package 3: White Context”:

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