6 Orange Artworks

Was the fruit named after the color? Discover the complicated history of orange in art

By Google Arts & Culture

Since the 16th Century orange has been the national color of the Netherlands. Around that time, the country was ruled by the House of Orange-Nassau, and though that name had nothing at all to do with the fruit or the colour, the connection was soon made and never forgotten.

Banquet of the Officers of the St George Civic Guard (1627) by Frans HalsFrans Hals Museum

But what came first, the fruit or the color? Before the 1500s, there was no word in English for the color. It was known as ġeolurēad, literally 'yellow-red'. The colour comes from the Old French fruit name orenge, which derives from Provençal auranja, based on Arabic nāranj.

Still Life of Oranges and Lemons with Blue Gloves (1889) by Vincent van GoghNational Gallery of Art, Washington DC

Today, orange is associated with an array of phenomena and feelings. The leaves of Autumn and the gentle warmth of fires, and the refreshing juice of sweet citrus fruits - as in Frida Kahlo's painting - but also with danger and safety.

Still Life with Watermelons (1953) by Frida KahloMuseo de Arte Moderno

Red, or orange, hair, as in Edvard Munch's Vampire might symbolise a fiery and dangerous personality. It's no coincidence that many femme fatales wear long, red hair.

Vampire (1895) by Edvard MunchThe Munch Museum, Oslo

From the 1930s, Georgia O'Keeffe travelled to the southwest deserts of the United States to paint the arid, rocky landscape. Her colourful abstraction renders the mountains almost fleshy, setting their orange slopes apart from the deep purple sky.

No. 22 - Special (1916-1917) by Georgia O'KeeffeGeorgia O'Keeffe Museum

Mark Rothko's color field paintings seek to reach something more than mere representation. The simple combination of colors in paintings such as Orange and Yellow touches at something deeper, something spiritual within their viewers.

Delve deeper with more orange artworks, or explore any other corner of the spectrum, with Explore by Color.

Orange and Yellow (1956) by Mark RothkoAlbright-Knox Art Gallery

Credits: All media
The story featured may in some cases have been created by an independent third party and may not always represent the views of the institutions, listed below, who have supplied the content.
Google apps