Red was believed to be the first color perceived by Man. The color red was thought to have protective powers against evil. Warriors painted their bodies and weapons in red to bestow them with magic powers. Red painted amulets or red gems were worn to protect against the "evil eye". The red rose is a symbol of fidelity and love. In Greek mythology the red rose is a symbol of growth and death, but also love. The red rose was dedicated to the Greek goddess of love, Aphrodite or the Roman goddess Venus. The red phoenix is a symbol of revival, cleansing, and rebirth. In some countries like Egypt, red has a negative connotation and symbolizes evil and anger.
The color orange is less intense and vibrant than the color red, but more bright and exciting than yellow. Chrome orange and realgar were popular with the Impressionists. “There is no blue without yellow and without orange.” - Vincent Van Gough
Yellow is dedicated to maturity, happiness, sunshine, autumn, and knowledge. The yellow sun was divine wisdom. The Greek sun god Helios rode across the sky at morning in a golden chariot. Yellow was first made out of yellow ochre, and was one of the first paints used by humans. The ancients made a brighter yellow from minerals. In the middle ages people created lead tin yellow. Many different yellow have been created. For example, lemon yellow, cobalt yellow, orpiment, and cadmium yellow.
Green represents life, regrowth, and fertility It also symbolizes hope and ongoing life. In the Bible, the Garden of Eden was lush and green and beautiful. God sent man to live there forever and care for it. This shows the ongoing life and lush fertility the color green represents. In some cultures green can symbolize death and sickness. It can also represent envy, jealousy, or sickness.
Blue is the color of water and the sky. In Christian art, blue is the color of heaven. Blue also symbolizes fidelity and loyalty; blue flowers symbolize faithfulness. Blue can also be referred to as calm, cool or sadness. The saying, "I'm feeling blue", is linked to blue representing sadness. There are many blue pigments: azurite, cobalt blue, indigo, and ultramarine.
Purple is usually associated with royalty and nobility. The ancient countries of Rome, Persia, and Egypt used purple dye for royalty. The earliest evidence of purple was in the Minoan civilization. Purple has also been used to symbolize magic and mystery, and supernatural aura.
White is used everywhere and represents many different things. For example, in China, white represented illness and death. It also represents purity, innocence, and liberty. In some cultures and countries, brides wear white dresses at their weddings. In Egypt, white also symbolizes purity. The city Memphis, in Egypt means "white walls". Ceremonial objects and clothes are usually white. In early Christian art, white was ceremonial, virtue, and purity. The white lamb became the symbol of Christ. Contrast between black and white is used to show opposites like man and woman, good and evil. The first whites were lime powder and gesso. White reflects light, having no "color".
Throughout art, black has represented rebellion, humility, power, evil, elegance, modern ideas, and mystery. In some countries, white is the color of mourning. To the Japanese, black represents experience and knowledge. The first black was called carbon black, and was made out of charcoal.