Sunday, March 8, 2009

Red and Orange


The most emotionally charged of all colors. The range of emotions evoked by red can range from passion, love, and lust to anger, rage and murder. Red is associated with blood and life. This bond between red and life has made it a significant color in every culture on Earth. Since blood held the secret of life, the color was credited with special powers. On the darker side, red can stand for blood violently spilt. The expression “to be caught red-handed” originated from the offender still being stained with the victim’s blood.

As if to Celebrate, I Discovered a Mountain Blooming with Red Flowers, by Anish Kapoor (1981) (image: Tate Collection).

Red is significant in Indian wedding traditions. A bride will usually wear red on her wedding day and on the eve of her wedding, she will have her hands and feet painted with henna.


As a color, it is a bridge between red and yellow, but lacks the emotional impact of either. It is considered a bright color, like yellow, thus infusing it with some of yellow’s traits: cheerful, uplifting, extroverted and expansive. It is the color of fall, fire, spices and homey baked goods, thus associating it with shelter, warmth and comfort. The French custom of adorning brides with blossoms from the orange tree symbolized the hope of fruitfulness.

The Harrison Violin by Antonio Stradivari (source: National Music Museum, University of North Dakota, Vermillion).

See Color: A Natural History of the Palette for a description of the mysterious orange varnish on Antonio Stradivari's violins.

The Colour Amour exhibit will continue on the 4th floor through March 26, 2008.


A Perfect Red by Amy Butler Greenfield. (New York: HarperCollins, 2005).

The Root of Wild Madder by Brian Murphy. (New York: Simon & Schuster, 2005).

Anish Kapoor: My Red Homeland. (Köln: Kunsthaus Bregenz, 2003.

Anish Kapoor by Germano Celant. (Milano: Edizioni Charta: Fondazione Prada, 1996).

Colour After Klein: Re-thinking Colour in Modern and Contemporary Art. (London: Barbican Art Gallery: Black Dog Pub., 2005).

Visit the Art Museum Image Gallery (available to San Francisco Public Library card holders) to view digital images of other works by Anish Kapoor.

There are two streaming audio playlists available at Smithsonian Global Sound (also found on the Library's Articles and Databases page and available to library card holders). Following the tab for Playlist Folders and go to the bottom of the page. Under "Course Folders" there are two playlists:

"Songs of Red" (26 tracks, 56 minutes in length)

"Songs of Orange" (8 tracks, 18 minutes in length)

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