Red: The History of a Color
Red is the color of love. Red is the color of anger. Red means stop.
The cape waved at the charging bull is red, and one is said to see red when irate. Ketchup and salsa, America’s favorite condiments, are red. Red leads the charge in the red, white, and blue. Red is the color of blood.
“Red is the archetypal color,” Michel Pastoureau tells us at the beginning of Red: the History of a Color. “[It’s] the first color humans mastered, fabricated, reproduced, and broke down into different shades.”
Despite being overtaken by blue in popularity, at least in the West, red remains the most powerful color, dominating our vision, our memory, our thoughts. Red is primal.
Pastoureau refers to the book as a monograph, an historical survey of the color red throughout European history. We see red move from the color of life – the fire and blood of survival – to a godly color, then morphing (falling?) into the color of hell, to its current place as the color of alertness and danger.
Jody Gladding’s translation from the original French, along with the 112 beautiful illustrations, make this book a brilliant read. Whether you’re an accomplished art historian or simply a weekend painter, Red is a fascinating book, showing there’s more to color than meets the eye.
|Princeton University Press
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