A red pigment of the madder genus that is a key natural colour; along with black (iron filings and jaggery) blue (Iindigo) and yellow (turmeric and pomegranate) it forms the group of base pigments used individually or mixed in all traditional dying and hand printing (such as ajrakh and kalamkari).

It is a bright, energetic and transformative colour: combine with yellow to make orange, with blue to make purple and with blacks for the endlessly subtle hues of emotions invoked by Mark Rothko in his Seagram series, hanging in the Tate Modern, London.

This pigment made the English parliamentary army famous as the ‘redcoats’, the huntsman recognisable in his hunting red coat, and was chosen for the red rag used to goad bulls in the ring. Each of these uses testifies to the slightly aggressive quality of pure red.

Rothko – sillitoe


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