The History of Crimson


The word Crimson derives from the Arabic – qirmizi – the name of a red dye and the mediterranean, oak-dwelling scale insect that the dye is made from and is a deep red that tends towards purple.

Alizarin Crimson – a standard of most starter paint sets in oil, watercolour and acrylic – is a synthetic dye that is based on the colouring agent found in madder and was first developed in the 19th Century. By 1872, synthetic alizarin was so popular that it accounted for 50 percent of all German dye manufacturing, selling worlwide. Before the introduction of Alizarin, the madder plant had been cultivated and red dyes processed from its roots. Although a common enough plant, this was a time consuming process that was, ultimately, more expensive than the new chemical industrial scale production of Alizairn and so natural madder production was ruined. Even today, Genuine Madder is one of the more expensive paints.