THE ICONOGRAPHY AND MEANING OF BLUE AND RED
Hilary Hope Guise, artist and lecturer in art history and classical art history
Blue is the most popular colour in the world. Redolent of velvety night skies, it symbolises strength, the intellect, the cosmos and spiritual healing. Made from ground-down lapis lazuli, it was more precious than gold. In the search for a cheaper blue, Prussian Blue was discovered. The first lecture traces its symbolism in artists including Gainsborough, Rothko and Chagall.
Red is a hot colour, with the lowest and slowest frequency of all colour waves. Red’s sacred meaning links it to blood and life. Red denotes both sin and the love that redeems it. In the Mediaeval scriptoria it was reserved for the words of Christ. In the twentieth century red became identified with the hammer and sickle and the clenched fist. The second lecture concludes with the esoteric meaning of red in the Great Work of alchemy.
1. From paradise to poison: the colour blue
2. The colour red: its sacred and secular meaning