In the West, yellow is not quite as positive as in Asia, where it is a color for emperors and kings. However, it still is most often associated with the sun and has been used to great effect throughout the history of western art.
One of my favorite uses of yellow in European painting is by Fragonard, the 18th-century French artist, who seemed to have a particular affinity for a warm, sunny yellow tone when painting clothes.
The most famous of Fragonard’s paintings featuring the striking yellow is Young Girl Reading (c.1776), which can be seen in the National Gallery of Arts in Washington, D.C. :
Fragonard had already used this vibrant tone in several portraits at the end of the 1760s. One is The Two Sisters, which is in New York, at the Metropolitan Museum of Art:
Another is Portrait of a Young Artist, which is in Paris, at the Louvre:
From the same period is Portrait of a Man Called the Warrior, kept in Williamstown, at the Sterling and Francine Clark Art Institute:
This painting is part of Fragonard’s famous 1769 Portraits de Fantaisie series, each painted in about an hour to show off the master’s skill.
Many other figures wear this yellow tone in Fragonard’s paintings, such as the woman in the famous The Bolt or Monsieur de la Bretèche in another portrait de fantaisie, both at the Louvre. Clearly a special affinity.
So, if you ever find yourself in a museum with 18th-century French paintings, especially in Washington, New York or Paris, look for Fragonard Yellow.