6 paintings that make Mark Rothko the pioneer face of Color Field style

6 paintings that make Mark Rothko the pioneer face of Color Field style


Artist Rothko before the work No. 7, 1960

He expresses rich emotions through works with vaguely colored patches on large canvas that occupy the entire viewer’s vision, evoking what he deems “supernatural”. Rothko’s flamboyant, sunny 1950s paintings gave off a sense of joy, while the painter’s late-life works in the 60s show his struggles with depression, which he later led his suicide on February 25, 1970, at the age of 66.

Like many other great artists, Rothko experimented with many artistic styles before building a personal style. Before that, Rothko had been experimenting with image and surrealism. Here are six pieces that encapsulate the shaping and evolving style of Mark Rothko.



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One of Rothko’s first iconic works, the Entrance to subway, is part of a collection inspired by the subway stations of New York City. It reflects the artist’s feelings towards contemporary urban life and is essentially a portrait of social alienation. The painting – in dull, murky colors – evokes a somber mood. Rothko believes New York City is lifeless and inhumane, an idea that has been conveyed through faceless drawings, gliding like ghosts.



Image: markrothkoart

During his pursuit of Surrealism, Rothko looked inward for inspiration; for him art is “an adventure into an unknown world.” His 1944 painting, Slow Swirl at the Edge of the Sea, depicts two creatures dancing in the middle of the horizon, surrounded by abstract spiral lines and stripes. Rothko painted this painting while chasing Mary Beistel, her second wife. Some people interpret this painting as a bizarre visualization of romance. Rothko also once said that forms “have no direct connection to any tangible experience, but there is principle and passion is perceived.”

NO.5 / NO.24, 1948


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Works No. 5 / No 24 marks the transition from Rothko’s original Surreal style to the Color Field style that will later be associated with his career. The painting is part of Rothko’s “Diverse” series, a term accepted by art critics and historians. Made between 1947 and 1949, all of the male artist’s “Diverse” works depict colorful freehand shapes on canvas.

NO NAME (NO.73), 1952


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With Untitled (No. 73) Rothko’s style is ripe. The works have a vibrant and vibrant rectangular color array to express “intense emotions”. With its bright and warm colors, the work evokes positive energy and perhaps represents the moment when the artist feels the happiest.

Rothko drew rectangles as a way of abstracting the shape in his earlier works. “Not deleted pictures,” he once said, “but symbols for shapes, and in turn the shapes in later oil paintings replace the shapes. These new shapes are in turn. said … what the icons said. “



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Four Darks in Red is part of a collection of 10 paintings exhibited by Rothko at the Sidney Janis Exhibition in 1969. The dark, limited palette denotes the artist’s interest in red and black saturated in his last works. Rothko accomplished this piece by applying several coats of paint to give it depth. Emerging against a vibrant red background, four rectangular areas dominate the composition. When looking closely at this nearly 3 meter wide canvas, viewers will be immersed in a tense atmosphere.



Image: markrothkoart

Rothko’s final series of black and gray work is shown live on a white canvas panel, a dramatic change from his usual color grading process. With only two pigments, the extreme contrast between light and dark in Untitled, Black on Gray evokes the sadness of the artist at the end of his life. This series of oil paintings is also smaller than his previous Color Field works, perhaps also reflecting Rothko’s mental and physical decline. When asked about the collection, Rothko explained it was about death. Rothko died just a year later.

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