"I personally believe that our obsession with white is a leftover from the Modernist Movement (between WW1 and WW2). The Modernist believed everything could be theoretically explained and analyzed. Everything in life was taken apart and re-assembled, usually separated and run parallel to each other or stacked on top of each other. Everything had to be stripped down to its essential form to fit the function. That included the colors.
Museums did not used to exhibit work on white walls. Wood paneling and colorful wall coverings were the norm. Paintings were hung in rows, almost from floor to ceiling. A museum visit was a social event. If we analyze the purpose and function of a museum, it becomes about the piece of art. Therefore the pieces have to be separated, preferably one or two pieces on one wall. The color white works best, because it does not "compete" with the artwork. The modern museum is born. Our route is controlled; a few pieces from the entire museum collection are shown. Art is no longer an everyday event. It is as if we are trying to eliminate the other experiences that come with going to a place. Our relationship to art changed.
In the Modernist model, each function needs its own environment. Art belongs in the museum. (Again, to me, that is focusing on one issue, trying to resolve it all). It is encouraging to me that newer museums are trying to blur the edges and have exhibits, courses, concerts and other events in their buildings. Some of the newer museums also begin to understand that a Dutch Baroque painting was created in a certain environment and are trying to re-create that experience. White walls become an option, and are not the one and only answer." - Christian Schnyder, "The Meaning of White is Relative", January, 2002
"A gallery is constructed along laws as rigorous as those for building a medieval church. The outside world must not come in, so windows are usually sealed off. Walls are painted white. The ceiling becomes the source of light. The wooden floor is polished so that you click along clinically, or carpeted so that you pad soundlessly, resting the feet while the eyes have at the wall. The art is free, as the saying used to go, "to take on its own life." The discreet desk may be the only piece of furniture. In this context a standing ashtray becomes almost a sacred object, just as the fire hose in a modern museum looks not like a fire hose but an esthetic conundrum. Modernism's transposition of perception from life to normal values is complete. This, of course, is one of modernism's fatal diseases." - Brian O'Doherty, "Inside the White Cube: the Ideology of the Gallery Space", 1976, 1986, 2000
"The Salon in question is the public art exhibit that was held annually or bi-annually in Paris beginning in 1737, and it is named after the room at the Louvre where it was held, the Salon Carré, or square room. Its significance in the social, cultural and political life of pre-Revolutionary France can hardly be overstated.
The origins of the Salon go back to the 1670s, when the crown-sponsored Académie royale de peinture et de sculpture (Royal Academy of Painting and Sculpture) began mounting semi-public exhibitions of the work of recent graduates, where they would hang all the paintings in one room, closely next to and atop one another so as to fit them all in (image 2).
In 1737, the Academy opened the exhibit up to the public. This had two significant results: not only was this a place where the social classes mingled in considerable quantity and proximity, but now the culturally important act of having an opinion was open to the rabble (images 3 and 4). And the rabble made themselves heard, often through the publication of pamphlets where members of the audience would record their thoughts on the event, picture by picture (pamphlets were huge in 18th-century France, a cheap and accessible mode of mass-communication, kind of akin to blogging). Suddenly, art was being consumed – not purchased, but visually and culturally consumed – by a different audience, one that was not bound by etiquette or friendship or tradition to the royal artistic agenda." - Anna Hoffman, "Hung: Salon-style Display", Apartment Therapy, September 10, 2009
"If you were to ask old-house owners what is one thing central to the look of all 19th and early-20th-century homes, you'd get a lot of different answers, most of them focused on construction. But the real answer is color! Historic houses used color' they were not painted white inside and out. For interiors, paint and wallpaper and tiles were colorful. Everyone loves living with color. I'm sure, in fact, that folks living in concrete, white, International-style homes would name, as their favorite thing, the colorful throw pillows.
Color is the easiest and least expensive way to impart history to an old house. Our Victorians and Foursquares did not have beige walls. The walls had color, and often pattern. Too many renovations today fall short because they are colorless.
My clients will attest to this: Use color, especially color related to the period of your house, and history will come alive.
White and off-white walls actually deaden the colors and impact of all the things you love about your house: its woodwork, floors, rugs, furnishings, and especially artwork. The reason is contrast. We all know that black and white are the essence of contrast, the classic figure/ground relationship. White makes everything that is on it or around it "black" simply because the contrast makes us see in b&w. Whatever is not white effectively becomes the opposite of white. Hence we tend to see a picture on a white wall as an object—the figure on the background. We see the object as a single color regardless of what colors are in it.
With paint, we find that a background color (not white) works to draw the various colors out of a painting, white is no longer a contrasting "figure." The colors in the painting are brought alive by all the colors in the room. The same is true of woodwork and floors. Color on the walls keys the eye to various tones in wood grain. Figured woodwork against white looks monochromatic; we will see it contrasting with white, and fail to see all the tonality. Not only the color, but also the texture, of the woodwork is overlooked. Color on walls works to help the eye see the midtone colors and shades that textures produces.
(You can test my assertion in the kitchen. Look at wood cabinets juxtaposed with black, white or brushed-steel appliances. The wood will have color but without depth. Look instead at wood against wood—cabinets, say, against an old wood door—and you're instantly aware of grain and tonality." - James Martin, "The News in Hues", taken from Old House Interiors, Jun-Jul 2006
"Coinciding with an era in which the king, Louis XV, had lost much of the cultural supremacy of his predecessor, Louis XIV, this development had a big impact on where cultural power lay. Even while the pamphleteers were denounced and even censored for their supposedly uneducated opinions, the shift of critical authority was irrevocable. Some artists began changing what subjects they painted, or the manner in which they represented them, in reaction to the public opinion. Similarly, the artistic tastes of the elite patrons of the arts were swayed by the public voice, which would either praise or condemn their purchases.
The Salon was so popular, and so important to artists, patrons and the public audience, that it endured in much the same form until the late-19th century, when the renegade Impressionists presented too much of a challenge to Academic ideals and the government withdrew support. Until then, each year, the Salon was characterized by (and caricatured for) its wall-to-wall, floor-to-ceiling rumpus of paintings. Smaller paintings were hung lower, the largest were highest, and the canvases were angled toward the floor for slightly easier viewing."
The art historian Thomas Crow presents the Salon as a turning point in the French social structure: the public viewing and judgment of artwork, which had always been the domain of the rich and powerful, was both a reflection and a precursor of the changing relationship of the ‘masses’ and the elite. Before the Salon, the Academy of painters fell under the bureaucratic jurisdiction of the crown; painters were limited as to what subjects they could paint (military history and mythology were two of the biggies), and were kept within certain protocols. With the Salon, the public registered their opinions not only of the individual painters and works, but also with the system itself – a part of and a metaphor for the Monarchy. And the public opinion's clear influence on the art world was a demonstration of the new and formidable power of the people in the decades leading up to the Revolution." - Anna Hoffman, "Hung: Salon-style Display", Apartment Therapy, September 10, 2009
"A word about the walls. It had already taken me quite a while to work out why my spouse had surrounded me with white walls. Southern towns like the one I'm from don't teach you how pristine scatterings of objects acquire a halo from such alleged neutral backdrops. Quite pleased with myself when I finally grasped this modern fundamental, I was all the more disturbed the day my 24-hour domestic demiurge began covering all the white surfaces of our apartment with layer upon layer of prints and paintings, rugs and textiles. And overpainting wallpaper (and ceilings!) with variable black grids and "phototiling" yet other walls with a repeating laminated photograph. But now I am starting to think that white walls look bleached, naked. They just stand there embarrassed, not knowing what to do. I like our busy, full-time walls." - Carl Skoggard, "Yes, I Too Married a Decorator", taken from NEST, Issue #2, Fall 1998
ALL TEXTS CITED IN PASSAGE; IMAGES  BY TODD SELBY, VIA THESELBY.COM; IMAGES  TAKEN FROM LONNY MAGAZINE/TRADITIONAL HOME'S TRAD HOME COLLABORATION; IMAGES  TAKEN FROM UNDECORATE BY CHRISTIANE LEMIEUX AND RUMAAN ALAM