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Dance the Orange

Updated: Mar 30, 2021

I love color. Bright, beautiful color. Even soft, muted color. And of all the colors, it's hard to pick a favorite, yet one resonates with me more right now than all the others. Orange.

Orange happily transitions from the vivid orange of summer to the richer, moodier orange of autumn, my favorite season. It's full of energy, warmth, and rambunctiousness.

Can you imagine the color Orange didn't even have it's own name until the 1500s. It was simply referred to as Yellow-red, but eventually after the first orange trees were transported to Europe from Asia in the early 16th century, the color was named after the fruit. (And the fruit must have been extremely popular. It didn't take long for Europeans to figure out how to create heated greenhouses to grow their prized orange trees. These greenhouses were called what else? Orangeries, of course.)

Random minerals and clays were utilized to create orange paint over the millennia, such as realgar and orpiment. As artists we owe a debt of gratitude to the French scientist Louis Vauquelin, who in 1797 discovered the mineral crocoite, leading to the invention of synthetic chrome orange pigment and enlivened our palettes forever.

Pomona painted by Nicolas Fouché in 1700, is often depicted in the secondary colors of orange, purple, and green, with orange being the dominant color. She was the goddess of fruitful abundance in ancient Rome. I love how the secondary colors work together in the most beautiful of triads.

Orange has become an important color for all impressionist painters, especially those who paint en plein air. Orange is the color of sunsets, and even light itself in the late afternoon, tinting every object it lands on with a warm glow. It lends itself to the exotic landscapes and seascapes of the Mediterranean as well as the charming, provincial pumpkin in a simple, country garden.

Matilda Browne's plein air painting In the Garden from 1914 also utilizes the secondary triad beautifully. I love how the organic hues of the woman's face and the shadows against the wall are equally as chromatic as the synthetic colors depicted in the woman's robe. Stunning.

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