The Color Red

By Francesca Lungarotti

The color red’s history is as rich and meaningful as the color itself.  Red was the first color developed for painting and dying.  It symbolized the religious contrast between the blood of Christ and the fires of Hell, and as far back as the Middle Ages, red was associated with love, lust, and anger.

Red, for many cultures, became the color of privilege, wealth and tradition.  The Ancient Egyptians and Mayans colored their faces red in ceremonies; Roman generals had their bodies colored red to celebrate victories.  After falling out of favor during the Protestant Reformation, red’s influence returned following the French Revolution, as the color came to represent progressive movements and subsequently left-wing politics during the 20th century.

Red is the one color that transmits and communicates strength, danger and tradition. Red, among all colors, has uniquely inspired the arts – literature, music, cinema and of course photography and visual arts are all influenced by the color.  Red is obviously the color of love and passion, but it embodies so much more and is recognized globally as a strong and sacred color.

Red is a color that embodies extremes, and this dichotomy is very interesting to observe across many global cultures: from the joy of Indian brides in bright red dresses to the sadness of funeral celebrations in Africa where it is usually the color of mourning and death, to the ubiquitous red hearts seen everywhere in mid-February as the world celebrates love.

Red both warns us and attracts us.  It commands us to notice it.

In the accompanying selection UIG proposes a series of images celebrating this wonderful color. 

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Red: The History of a Color by Michel Pastoreau and translated by Jody Gladding,love%2C%20glory%2C%20and%20beauty.

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