Liberal Arts Blog — Flags II: Variations on a Theme: Red, White, and Blue Horizontal Stripes
Liberal Arts Blog — Friday is the Joy of Art, Architecture, Design, Film, and All Things Visual Day
Today’s Topic: Flags II: Variations on a Theme: Red, White, and Blue Horizontal Stripes
What is it about red, white, and blue? Why have so many countries picked a flag with this particular combination of colors? My pet theory: these are the colors of the most spectacular dawns and dusks which are the most visually arresting moments of every day, the times of transition between day and night. Two weeks ago, I posted on paintings featuring the flags of France and the United States — one by Claude Monet, another by Childe Hassam, and another by Jasper Johns. Today, three variations on the theme of horizontal red, white, and blue stripes. Which sequence of colors do you find most appealing? What is your favorite flag from a design perspective? Experts — please chime in. Correct, elaborate, elucidate.
THE NETHERLANDS — RED ON TOP, WHITE IN MIDDLE, BLUE BELOW
1. The Netherlands flag is the first tricolor flag in continuous use and dates to the late 17th century.
2. “The red band symbolizes bravery, strength, valor, and hardiness; the white band, peace and honesty; and the blue band represents vigilance, truth, loyalty, perseverance, and justice.” (first link)
3. The immediate antecedent was the orange, white, and blue “Prince’s flag” of the early 17th century which later became the basis for South African flag from 1924 to 1994.
THE FLAG OF RUSSIA: WHITE ON TOP, BLUE IN MIDDLE, RED BELOW
1. During the Soviet period, the traditional Russian tricolor flag was replaced with the red flag with a gold hammer, sickle, and star in the upper hoist corner.
2. Originally, the white stood for God, the blue for the Tsar, and the Red for the people.
3. Today, the meaning of the stripes is less clear. “The most popular is as follows: The white color symbolizes nobility and frankness, the blue for faithfulness, honesty, impeccability and chastity, and red for courage, generosity and love.” Really? not very catchy. Eye-glazing, in fact. Do you have a better story?
FLAG OF KINGDOM OF YUGOSLAVIA, 1916–1941: BLUE ON TOP, WHITE IN MIDDLE, RED ON BOTTOM
1. Based on the Pan Slavic Flag adopted at the Prague Slavic Congress of 1848.
2. Also the flag of the short-lived country of “Serbia and Montenegro” from 2003 to 2008.
3. Yugoslavia means “land of South Slavs.” Its original name was “the Kingdom of Serbs, Croats, and Slovenes.” It was formed from remnants of the Austro-Hungarian empire which dissolved during World War I — along with the neighboring Ottoman Empire.
FOOTNOTE — What design? What colors? Would you pick?
1. My color choice: blue (gratitude, sky), white (truth, clouds), green (kindness, life).
2. The existing flag that combines these three is that of Sierra Leone. The stripes are horizontal with green on top, white in the middle, and blue below.
3. I would reverse the blue and the green as symbolic of the primacy of gratitude.
NB: But, then again, maybe stripes are not the way to go. And maybe three colors are too many. The UN flag has only two — blue and white. As does the European Union flag — blue and gold. Thoughts?
THE LAST THREE YEARS OF POSTS ORGANIZED THEMATICALLY ARE AVAILABLE HERE:
Please share the coolest thing you learned recently or ever related to art, sculpture, design, architecture, film, or anything visual.
This is your chance to make some one else’s day. And to cement in your own memory something cool or important you might otherwise forget. Or to think more deeply than you otherwise would about something that is close to your heart.