One hundred and thirteen

Untitled (Violet, Black, Orange, Yellow on White and Red)

1949 by Mark Rothko
Guggenheim Museum

The Rothko canvases that dominated the Tate’s retrospective were dark and menacingly compelling, the exhibition dominated by the room holding the magnificent maroon and black ‘sketches’ Rothko made for the Four Seasons Restaurant in the Seagram Building, New York (see postcard seventy-three). These were large and consuming in their darkness, quite different to this earlier example of Rothko, where the canvas is smaller and quite simply bright. Illuminative almost, colour clearly stands out, though the energy behind these brilliant pigments is no less compelling. The quality of colour is still fantastic; the violet (or red, magenta, pink – such is the multi-luminescent quality of this colour) is rich, light in tone but deep in texture and depth. This luxury in colour is then reflected in those below, in the warmth of the vivid yellow and orange; they mirror their red mother above in a dilution of her colour equation. We feel a unity of origin and intensity. This colour in then contained, though it proves to escape, in black and white lines. These are contrastingly drained, refreshing in their monotone difference. They are rough lines of shape, loosely aiming to frame, yet their blurred edges and slight morphing to colour free them from any regiment, and create a movement that make the canvas come alive.

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