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Untitled (Blue, Yellow, Green on Red)

1954

Mark Rothko, Untitled (Blue, Yellow, Green on Red), 1954. Oil on canvas, 77 3/4 × 65 1/2 in. (197.5 × 166.4 cm). Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; gift of The American Contemporary Art Foundation Inc., Leonard A. Lauder, President  2002.261
© 1998 Kate Rothko Prizel & Christopher Rothko / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York
Mark Rothko’s first paintings were of people and scenes of the city. Over time, the people, windows, doors, and other shapes disappeared, and his paintings were composed of rectangles of different colors and sizes, arranged in patterns on large canvases, like this one. In the 1950s he became known as one of the key artists of Color Field painting, which was a branch of Abstract Expressionism. Rothko used thin layers of paint so that the color showed through and the paintings appeared to glow. He wanted his paintings to express emotions and change the space they occupied, so they would affect the viewer’s mood, feelings, and thoughts. Rothko said that he painted large pictures so that you could be surrounded by color and feel like you were in the painting.

Rothko once said that the best way to look at his paintings was from a distance of 18 inches.

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