Colours are radiant energies that affect us positively and negatively, and red is the most forceful of all. It is a very flexible colour, from demonic scarlet to angelic pink, from the wisdom of crimson to the extravagance of orange: its range of expression is extreme.

Pure red is the colour of passion. This is because of its association with blood and fire. When we fall in love our blood is on fire! Like blood and fire, passion can be both creative and destructive. We will look at the way artists have used red to express these opposing energies.

I and the Village, by Chagall - part of the material subject matter for Art History lecture on the place of red in art

Some artists use red for purely aesthetic reasons. Landscape painters will often use a dab of scarlet on a figure’s clothing so that the figure will not get lost amidst all the greens and browns. In Australia Sidney Nolan and Michael Andrews were inspired by the red earth in the landscape.

Other artists use red symbolically as in the paintings of Christ where he wears red to denote his sacrifice. Generally, the aesthetic effects of a picture are entwined with its meaning.

The history of red pigments is explored in conjunction with the analysis of paintings formal qualities.

I guarantee that you will leave this lecture never seeing red in quite the same way again!

This lecture was recorded in George Town, Penang for The Arts Society, in May 2019, you can view it here.