Mark Rothko: Emotions through Color

American painter originated from Russia (Dvinsk 1903 - New York 1970.) After Gorky and Pollock, he is one of the best well-known American painters of the 20th century, and his influence and reputation continues to be studied by art experts from all over the world.

Red, White, Brown. 1957. Museum of Fine Arts, Basel.

From Subjectivism to Spirituality

The artistic awakening of Mark Rothko was relatively late. During a long time of research in the field of intellectual and philosophical worries, he manifested a particular passion towards the Greek Mythology, the primitive arts and the psychoanalysis of Jung. In the visuals field, he felt appealed to the color scheme of Matisse and Milton Avery, an American painter of the time (1893-1965.) However, he was especially influenced by the Surrealism movement, which in 1942, drove him to the exploration of the instinctive forces translated into a painting full of spectral and larval forms, almost with no color. In 1947, the major introduction of color suppressed the subjectivity of all forms without making the same painterly ambience disappear; the rectangle became his favorite form. In 1949 (Rothko was at this time 46) his final style was consolidated: rectangles of different colors floating over a background, not because of a passion for geometry, but for the aim of expressing his emotions of metaphysical nature. Different commenters, looking at his Jewish origins, pointed to a specific point of reference: "the conception of the drapery in the biblical tabernacle, the curtains of the Temple in front of the Sancta Sanctorum (expressed as a vacuum)" [Werner Haftmann]. In his last artworks, he only used the grey and the black colors, what makes us think that the artist was going through a difficult and sad moment of his life. This point of view is reinforced by his suicide in 1970.

Ecstasy Color

The radiant paintings of Rothko are not enrolled in a specific religion, but they act as an inducement to the divine, they express very likely what each person carries inside them, without linking to any particular god. The dimensions of his canvases also explain this. The painter once declared: "the larger the painting you make, the more you will feel inside it. It's quite something and I also don't pretend to give orders." The intense vibration of the color shows the path of the contemplation towards the ecstasy of the soul, the happiness. Rothko defined his own works as "mystical actions". He described the path with the following words: "Everything begins as an unknown adventure in an unknown place. At the end, thanks to a lightening of the conscience, is recognized the number and the function planned. The ideas and the plans which were inside the spirit were nothing else than a trail through which is abandoned the world from which they emerged." The communication exists through this painting with the help of some apparently basic elements. No-one, except Rothko, had managed, using the color pushed to superior limits, to produce in the viewer a sensation directed to their heart and spirit. The painter Turner communicated with the divine through the rays and thunderbolts, whereas in Rothko's paintings, the thunder is soothed, the storm is pulled away and serenity floods our inside.

Source: Britannica