July is Pride Month and as strong allies, the CBUAG is launching a brand new column here on our blog where, for the next 6 weeks, we will be bringing you fun facts about each colour in the pride rainbow! These facts can be anything from their symbolism to their origin in paint production. Stay tuned to learn all about the colours: RED, ORANGE, YELLOW, GREEN, BLUE, PURPLE. This week we are going to look at RED and its place in history.
Here are 7 interesting facts about the first colour of the Pride Rainbow, RED.
1. Prehistoric RED
RED was one of the very first colours ever made. The oldest pigments used in cave drawings were red and black. Early people’s would have used clays, rich in iron minerals, and charcoal in order to create wonderful depictions of wildlife on the caves of their walls.
2. Egyptians and Symbolism
RED is often associated with extremes and sometimes even opposites. In ancient Egypt, red was associated with life, health, and victory but it was also associated with destruction and evil. Egyptians would colour themselves with red ochre during celebrations and the women would dye their cheeks, fingernails, and hair red with henna.
In Asia, RED is a symbol of good luck and is an auspicious color for marriage. This is why brides in India and Nepal wear red saris and brides in Japan wear a red kimono. It is worn at weddings to bring happiness and good luck to the new couple.
Up until the 14th century, RED was the colour of the upper class; it showed your wealth and status. This was the colour adorned by Cardinals and Princes. But with the implementation of laws restricting colored cloth, nobility began wearing black clothes as a sign of importance.
5. Vincent van Gogh
The 19th century saw the use of RED in art to create specific emotions and the birth of the systematic study of color theory. These studies were avidly followed by artists such as Vincent van Gogh. Describing his painting, The Night Cafe, to his brother Theo in 1888, he wrote: “I sought to express with red and green the terrible human passions. The hall is blood red and pale yellow, with a green billiard table in the center, and four lamps of lemon yellow, with rays of orange and green. Everywhere it is a battle and antithesis of the most different reds and greens.”*
*Vincent van Gogh, Corréspondénce general, number 533, cited by John Gage, Practice and Meaning from Antiquity to Abstraction.
6. Seeing RED
The human eye sees light through wavelengths. The human eye sees RED when it looks at light with a wavelength between 620 and 740 nanometers. This is the largest wavelength that the human eye can see; past this is called infrared and cannot be seen though it can be felt as heat.
7. New Inventions
In the early 20th century, the German chemical industry invented two new synthetic RED pigments. One of these, cadmium red, is now the most commonly used RED pigment. The French painter Henri Matisse (1869–1954) was one of the first prominent painters to use the new cadmium red in his paintings.
Stay tuned next week for some interesting facts about the colour ORANGE!