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What Black and White Symbolise in Art and Design

Most of the time, when you ask people why they love artworks, one of their responses will be colour. Since artists are aware of this, they use colours effectively to evoke strong emotions in people.
Both old and contemporary artists understand the richness of a black and white abstract painting, and they use such monochrome colours to create sophisticated masterpieces that survive the test of time.

Colours have a major role that they play in artistry. However, black and white are more than just colours.
When contemporary artists use these monochrome colours, they portray how well they understand black and white colours.

White- Most people from different cultures often denote white as a sign of purity, innocence and loyalty. A painter can create a black and white  painting using different images to communicate the mood and message that he intends for his viewers.

Black- In most scenarios, black usually denotes evil. When a painter wants to talk about depressing thoughts, scenes and images, he uses black. Black also kills any hint of hope that especially in images of death and unjust killings. It denotes helplessness from innocent civilians and members of the minority.



        serge rat artworks black and white painting


What Artists are Famous for their Black and White Painting?


In the history of art, you will realise that  black and white painting  are the most popular Most artists worldwide use black and white to bring out contrasting ideas and realities in their paintings.

You will notice that white lenses usually bring out goodness, hope and purity, while black lenses usually denote evil and blackmail.

Black and white paintings have become iconic in artistry, and some popular artists are using them in opposite fashion such that the black lens will highlight some of the most defining features of the painting.

This article captures some of the most famous black and white abstract painting. You will also find out why most art lovers consider them the most extraordinary paintings ever done by artists. Therefore, read on to find out.

1. Guernica by Pablo Picasso

He is the most famous black and white painter in history and most art critics and enthusiasts have viewed his works. Guernica is one of his most famous black and white absract painting as it entails the terrifying campaign by Nazi Germany right before the Second World War.

The black and white absract painting captures how the war destroyed Germany: animals, the city and human beings were at no mercy as they were reduced to nothing when the German bombing occurred.

The artist had the intention of highlighting how destructive war can be. Picasso wanted to paint a clear image of how hatred can affect the human race and its beautiful surrounding. He aimed at showing the world that hatred and warfare cannot spare even the innocent.

In this black and white painting, there are horrific pictures; one of a mother crying after losing her child, the death of other human beings and a horse too. The black lens in this famous painting depicts how warfare and hatred can bring about evil and destroy the lives of both humans and animals as well.

2. Chief by Franz Kline

Ideally, this painting indicates that black and white absract painting became popular worldwide in the 20th century. Franz is among the famous artists who worked hard to create and maintain this unique style that took the world by storm.

Franz clearly states that for him to be able to produce this beautiful masterpiece, he had to learn how to incorporate both colours magnificently on canvas instead of assuming and using the void blank space of the canvas as the white lens in his painting.

Chief by Franz Kline black and white painting

3. The Charnel House by Pablo Picasso

The Charnel House black and white absract painting are among Picasso’s masterpieces that bear an unapologetically political nature. The artist was keen on painting as he aimed at creating images and forms that lack the element of colour in them.

The painter aimed to indirectly confront Nazi Germany on the injustices they inflicted on the innocent citizens. The painting depicts a scene where a family is murdered in their dining room. All these horrific injustices affected not only Germans but also many other European nations. Through the painting, one can see how evil and unjust the Nazi Germans were as they killed innocent citizens mercilessly.

4. Cart with Black Ox by Van Gogh

Van Gogh was famously known for creating beautiful scenes of flowers or a calm and peaceful pond setting. Therefore, when he created Cart with Black Ox, a black and white absract painting, it became a masterpiece.

The painting is of a lonely ox saddled with a cart in an unfertile land. Gogh painted this work of art in 1884 when human beings and animals were subject to hard physical labour. It creates such a depressing mood, especially with its black colours and the white legs of the ox. All these details make Van Gogh’s painting unique.

Why some Artists only Use Black and White

Ideally, it is common to refer to artists fond of creating black and white painting as monochrome masters. These monochrome masters have mastered this art to create complexity in their works.
Famous artists such as Picasso, Van Gogh, Gerhard Ritcher, and Degas create artistic scenes using these two monochrome colors. Here are some reasons why some artists would rather stick to black and white painting in their works.

1. An Artistic Tradition

In the early 20th century, artists had a limitation on the colours they could use in their paintings. Black and white painting were the only colours available at their disposal, and they got used to creating scenes, ideas, and images from these two colours. Therefore, artistic gurus such as Picasso, Degas and Van Gogh found their way and managed to feed the world with the beauty of their ideas carefully laid on canvas. Picasso adopted this idea and created one of the most popular black and white painting in the world.

2. The Age of Photography and Film

The age of photography and film in 1839 brought competition to painters who tried to imitate the effects so that they could keep up with the quality. Famous artists such as Gerhard Richter drew inspiration from press photography, a picture of a prostitute who was brutally murdered, and he made a black and white absract painting titled ‘Helga Matura with Her Fiance.’

3. Spiritual Connection

Colours have a way in which they communicate emotions. In most cultures, black represents evil and any works of the devil, while white contrasts all these; it denotes purity, love and innocence. Artists with black and white absract painting understand how colours influence human emotions. They also understand the weight that colours have on evoking powerful past experiences. Therefore, through this consensus, they get the motivation to explore spiritualism through monochrome art; black and white painting for instance.


Painters reduce their colour palette due to numerous reasons. However, one of the main reasons is to lose the distraction that colours cause on viewers. Artists that use monochrome colours can maintain the viewers’ focus on certain specific aspects such as the form, symbolic meanings and mark marking on their paintings.
Black and white painting of both old and contemporary painters reveal how colour is more of a painter’s choice and that it is not a necessity.
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