The colour orange has always been one of warning used for it’s eye-catching qualities to delineate danger. The pigment was produced through a difficult process of grinding down madder, the pink root of a small bush. Madder is often used to make ‘rose madder genuine’ watercolor paint but when used as a dye, a rich shade of orange-red will emerge when a bit of alum is added to the bath (1). The dependence on the natural madder pigment did not end until 1869 when the specific chemical that causes the red-orange coloration was replicated in a formula. Over the past 30 years there has been a small revival within the industry to relearn the techniques associated with natural dye production.
Margaret Preston, Still life: fruit (Amhem Land motif), 1941
oil on canvas, 43 x 53.3 cm, National Gallery of Australia