Red is arguably the most important color to human beings. Since ancient times red has colored our strongest emotions, warned of danger, distinguished our leaders, glorified our religious images, and underscored our life and death. For many, red was divine, a direct connection to gods and the supernatural.
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Today red seems much less important to us. Dimmed by time and technology, the color is something we hardly pay attention to. Seeing Red focuses on our long relationship with red and the dyes and pigments that humanity has developed to express ourselves. To represent a color that held such deep meaning, red dyes and pigments have nearly always depended on scarce materials and advanced technology, often resulting in rare and expensive products reserved for high-status use. The study of red substances in artwork can provide insight into artists’ works, giving us technological, cultural, and art historical information that we may not discover in any other way.
Organized by the North Carolina Museum of Art. This exhibition is made possible, in part, by the North Carolina Department of Natural and Cultural Resources; the North Carolina Museum of Art Foundation, Inc.; and the William R. Kenan Jr. Endowment for Educational Exhibitions. Research for this exhibition was made possible by Ann and Jim Goodnight/The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation Fund for Curatorial and Conservation Research and Travel.
Cornelis de Vos, King Philip III of Spain, 1635, oil on canvas, 94 ×51 in., Purchased with funds from the North Carolina State Art Society (Robert F. Phifer Bequest)