It began in 1948 with a Bonnard retrospective at MOMA in New York and then in 1949 Matisse's "The Red Studio" was hung there. These artists, using extraordinary colors, along with Gaugin, would greatly influence the artist Mark Rothko.
His style was that of horizontal form. Quite radical for his time, but what we would consider contemporary if painted today. Labeled "Biomorphic Surrealism," it would be defined as "abstract shapes that have come alive or threaten to come alive."
Rothko interpreted the horizontals and verticals of the cityscape. His medium was watercolor and he would apply a wash or use layering. He eliminated the use of an outline, allowing his shapes of color to form and define their own edges and boundaries.
Rothko has expressed himself in these words:
"I am not an abstract painter. I am not interested in the relationship between form and colour. The only thing I care about is the expression of man's basic emotions: tragedy, ecstasy, destiny."
As quoted from Wikipedia.org.
Rothko's destiny was in fact a tragedy. His depression was realized in his darker works and in 1970 he committed suicide.
I have personally experienced the wonder of Mark Rothko by being surrounded by his works at the Phillips Collection in Washington, D.C. At the time I was neutral in my opinion of the artist. I sat in front of the painting and it truly was a mystical/spiritual experience. I noticed each brushstroke and drip of paint. I suppose I felt as Sister Wendy did with a work by Agnes Martin. You are drawn into the painting on a level that perhaps only your heart and soul can understand. Is Rothko painting a window that we alone can see into and beyond?
I have also seen a Rothko painting come alive (biomorphism). A few years ago on the Maine shoreline I saw the most incredible sunrise. The colors were maroon, yellow, and orange. I smiled and knew that artists like Rothko had indeed captured nature on canvas and interpreted it in a way that could be understood by humankind.
You too can own a print by Mark Rothko. "Untitled - Yellow, Red, Blue."
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