Recalling this “forgotten history,” this gallery installation of nine cinema works from MoMA’s collection introduces a number of early systems that were used to reproduce color on celluloid. Focused on films produced in the United States and France from the mid-1890s through the mid-1930s, the exhibition features a suite of hand-colored Butterfly and Serpentine dance films from the 1890s.
The earliest color films were made around 1895, when new, synthetically produced dyes transformed the nature of color in mediums such as postcards, magic lantern slides, and fabrics. For moviegoers and critics of the period, color added to films shot in black and white was an attractive “special effect.” In the decades before Technicolor proved capable of reproducing a full spectrum of colors closer to those of the real world, colorists indulged in the imaginative possibilities of the techniques available to them.
Image: Installation view / courtesy of MoMA