Mark Rothko

Mark Rothko
Untitled, 1948
Blue and Grey, 1962
Untitled (Red-Brown, Black, Green, Red), 1962
Untitled (Plum and Dark Brown), 1964
Untitled (Red, Orange), 1968
Untitled, 1948
Add to favorites 

Currently not on show

Mark Rothko
Untitled, 1948

Oil on canvas, 152.5 x 126.5 cm
Photo: Christopher Burke, Ouesada / Burke

Untitled is one of Mark Rothko’s paintings from the period before his ‘classical’ oeuvre, of which Untitled (Red, Orange) is just one example in the Fondation’s collection. Here, the mythically exaggerated Surrealism and legible content characteristic of his early work are replaced by insular, still relatively small patches of colour as pictorial protagonists. Curiously, this is the last painting that Rothko signed on the front of the canvas; thereafter, the compositional form he evolved precluded a signature in the traditional manner.

Blue and Grey, 1962
Add to favorites 

Currently exhibited at St. Louis Art Museum, USA

Mark Rothko
Blue and Grey, 1962

Oil on canvas, 193 x 175 cm
Photo: Robert Bayer, Basel

Like Untitled (Red, Orange), the painting Blue and Grey also shows two colour forms: one is painted in a velvety blue that wells up incandescently from remote depths, and contrasts with the other form, a fluffy white cloud of colour hovering above it, striking up a dialogue between the alternating states of floating above and sinking inside the picture.

Order poster in the shop

Untitled (Red-Brown, Black, Green, Red), 1962
Add to favorites 

Currently exhibited at St. Louis Art Museum, USA

Mark Rothko
Untitled (Red-Brown, Black, Green, Red), 1962

Oil on canvas, 206 x 193.5 cm
Photo: Peter Schibli, Basel

In Untitled (Red-Brown, Black, Green, Red), a narrow strip of luminous coral red erupts out of a multilayered sequence of dark bottle green, black and rust brown seams and coalesces in ardent contrast with the violet blue background.

Untitled (Plum and Dark Brown), 1964
Add to favorites 

Currently exhibited at St. Louis Art Museum, USA

Mark Rothko
Untitled (Plum and Dark Brown), 1964

Oil on canvas, 236.5 x 212.5 cm
Photo: Robert Bayer, Basel

Untitled (Plum and Dark Brown) manifests the reductive tendency of Rothko’s mature work in its most radical form. A single, sharp-edged rectangular field of blackish brown lies over the monochrome black ground. The works in this series of Black Form Paintings are painted black in black, with occasional nuances towards brown, violet blue and a certain reddishness. As the final consequence of his approach, the artist eschews colouration that might be misconstrued as pretty or even decorative. Black as a non-colour demands the viewer’s utmost perceptual involvement, kindles a relationship between viewer and object of consummate intensity. Only as time proceeds and upon closer observation, do the pictures’ subtle visual mechanics and the dialogues between brilliant and mat, between opaque and transparent surfaces become apparent. ‘Colourfulness’ is sensed only fleetingly in the materialization of warmth and cold, of red and blue tinges that have been seeped into the depths of the black. By preventing his pictures from ‘showing’ anything and removing any remaining obstacles, Rothko requires the viewer to rely exclusively on his own perception, launching him into an undivided dialogue with the painting. Regardless of whether this involves a single work or a group of works, the artist has thereby not only created a place – a locus, a presence – but has also lent conclusive form to his claim that he was not an abstract, but a “human and tragic” painter.

Untitled (Red, Orange), 1968
Add to favorites 

Currently not on show

Mark Rothko
Untitled (Red, Orange), 1968

Oil on canvas, 233 x 176 cm
Photo: Robert Bayer, Basel

An area of deep red, roughly in the shape of a square, and of warm orange red in the form of a crossbar hover over a red ground. The two elements darken like shadows towards their edges, where the colour also appears to become denser and to fray, almost as if they were billowing out in an exhalation of breath, only then, in the next instant, to recede back into the picture plane – securely attached yet impossible to pin down. The painting’s ground is powdery, allowing the beige of the underlying canvas to shine through and charging the peripheries with additional pictorial vitality. Acting almost as a sum of his entire artistic experience, Untitled (Red, Orange) is perhaps best suited to describe Rothko’s ‘classical’ approach to pictorial composition, which he had evolved progressively since the late 1940s.

Order poster in the shop

Mark Rothko

1903, Dvinsk, Russian Empire (now Latvia) – 1970, New York

Having emigrated to the United States with his family in 1913, Rothko studied art in New Haven and New York. In 1935 he co-founded the artists’ group “The Ten” with Adolph Gottlieb and others. Rothko’s ‘classic’ work began to emerge in the late 1940s: characteristically large rectangular fields of colour with blurred edges that seem to hover over a differently coloured ground. The calmed tension and quiet sublimity of these paintings is achieved by means of contrasting colours which, in combination with the simple forms, are intended to create a meditative experience. According to Rothko, the indeterminacy of the paintings’ inner structure erased memory and liberated recollection. Given Rothko’s Jewish background, mystical connotations can no more be ruled out than the conscious reference to the tradition of the sublime in European painting. Rothko regarded his paintings as living organisms: for him, colour was something deeply human and sensuous, but at the same time it served as the gateway to transcendental experience. He also felt an affinity to Monet within the colourist tradition. This is reflected by his method of creating hovering expanses of colour, which can be related to the interior space of Monet’s famous water lily paintings. Rothko committed suicide in 1970 in New York.

Station