Thursday, 20 November 2014

Mark Rothko

fig.1 Mark Rothko, Untitled (man and two women in 
a pastoral setting), 1940. National Gallery Washington
The Gemeentemusuem Den Haag is currently exhibiting the works of the 20th century painter Mark Rothko. In addition to his classic style works from the 1950s, an entire room is devoted to his early works, some of which have rarely been seen before. Among them are urban scenes, still lifes and portraits expressed in shimmering colors that are completely different from Rothko’s generally known works (fig. 1).

Rothko began painting abstract works in the 1940s. At the time, European artists were seeking refuge in the U.S. after World War I and bringing to America the diverse art of Europe. Rothko was intrigued by the Surrealist and avant-garde movements and began to try an abstract approach to his works. His interest in Surrealism led to an exploration of philosophy, particularly of the works of Nietzsche. At one point during the 1940s, Rothko even stopped painting, believing it was more important to verbally explain his art.

fig.2 Mark Rothko (1903-1970), Untitled / Zonder titel,
1953, gemengde techniek op doek, 195 x 172,1 cm,
National Gallery of Art, Washington – schenking The
Mark Rothko Foundation, Inc. © 1998 Kate Rothko
Prizel & Christopher Rothko /Artists Rights Society
(ARS), New York c/o Pictoright Amsterdam 2014
But he returned to the art world after a few months. When Rothko began to express his artistic intentions through paintings again, his works were transformed into paintings of such unique character that they could immediately be identified as his work (fig. 2). Objects disappeared as Rothko pursued the depiction of universal human emotion such as happiness, grief, fear and enchantment, through the use of color.

Rothko created depth in his color by layering paints atop one another. Yellows and oranges can be seen through and amid a black canvass. The various layered colors influence each other, so that what at first appears to be a mono-toned black painting is gradually transformed into one of various different colors. The unstable and changing colors jolts the emotions of the observer. The term “inner light,” often used to describe Rothko’s paintings is born from this unstable movement of colors.
Rothko hoped that observers of his paintings would, like him, feel at one with the work. Standing in front of one of his giant canvasses, the viewer would gradually be immersed in the deep-hued rose, the warm yellow and gloomy black and sense becoming a part of the painting.

Mark Rothko Exhibition Until 2015, March 15. Closed Mondays.

Gemeentemuseum Den Haag
Stadhouderslaan 41
2517 HV Den Haag
The Netherlands
Opening times:
Tuesday — Sunday 11:00-17:00
Closed on Mondays, 5 May, 25 Dec