is a composite colour. In the CMYK colour model used in printing or painting, brown is made by combining red, black, and yellow, or red, yellow, and blue. In the RGB colour model used to project colours onto television screens and computer monitors, brown is made by combining red and green, in specific proportions.
According to public opinion surveys in Europe and the United States, brown is the least favourite colour of the public; the colour is most often associated with plainness, the rustic and poverty.
Brown has been used in art since prehistoric times. Paintings using umber, a natural clay pigment composed of iron oxide and manganese oxide, have been dated to 40,000 BC. Paintings of brown horses and other animals have been found on the walls of the Lascaux cave dating back about 17,300 years. The female figures in ancient Egyptian tomb paintings have brown skin, painted with umber. Light tan was often used on painted Greek amphorae and vases.
The Ancient Greeks and Romans produced a fine reddish-brown ink, of a colour called sepia, made from the ink of a variety of cuttlefish. This ink was used by Leonardo da Vinci, Raphael and other artists during the Renaissance, and by artists up until the present time, either as a background for black figures, or the reverse.
Raw umber and burnt umber are two of the oldest pigments used by man. Umber is a brown clay, containing a large amount of iron oxide and between five and twenty percent manganese oxide, which give the colour. Its shade
varies from a greenish brown to a dark brown. It takes its name from the Italian region of Umbria, where it was formerly mined. The principal source today is the island of Cyprus. Burnt umber is the same pigment which has been roasted (calcined), which turns the pigment darker and more reddish.
Raw sienna and burnt sienna are also clay pigments rich in iron oxide, which were mined during the Renaissance around the city of Siena in Tuscany. Sienna contains less than five percent manganese. The natural sienna earth is a dark yellow ochre colour; when roasted it becomes a rich reddish brown called burnt sienna.
Van Dyck brown, known in Europe as Cologne earth or Cassel earth, is another natural earth pigment, that was made up largely of decayed vegetal matter. It made a rich dark brown, and was widely used during the Renaissance to the 19th century It takes its name from the painter Anthony van Dyck, but it was used by many other artists before him. It was highly unstable and unreliable, so its use was abandoned by the 20th century, though the name continues to be used for modern synthetic pigments. The colour of Van Dyck brown can be recreated by mixing ivory black with mauve or with Venetian red, or mixing cadmium red with cobalt blue.
Mars brown. The names of the earth colours are still used, but very few modern pigments with these names actually contain natural earths; most of their ingredients today are synthetic. Mars brown is typical of these new colours, made with synthetic iron oxide pigments. The new colours have a superior colouring power and opacity, but not the delicate hue as their namesakes.
Walnuts have been used to make a brown dye since antiquity. The Roman writer Ovid, in the first century BC described how the Gaul’s used the juice of the hull or husk inside the shell of the walnut to make a brown dye for wool, or a reddish dye for their hair.
The Chestnut tree has also been used since ancient times as a source brown dye. The bark of the tree, the leaves and the husk of the nuts have all been used to make dye. The leaves were used to make a beige or yellowish-brown dye, and in the Ottoman Empire the yellow-brown from chestnut leaves was combined with indigo blue to make shades of green.
In humans, brown eyes result from a relatively high concentration of melanin in the stroma of the iris, which causes light of both shorter and longer wavelengths to be absorbed. Brown is the second most common colour of human hair, after black. It is caused by higher levels of the natural dark pigment eumelanin, and lower levels of the pale pigment pheomelanin. Brown eumelanin is more common among Europeans, while black eumelanin is more often found in the hair on non-Europeans. A small amount of black eumelanin, in the absence of other pigments, results in grey hair. A small amount of brown eumelanin in the absence of other pigments results in blond hair.