Mark Rothko

Light Red Over Black


Oil paint on canvas
Support: 2306 x 1527 x 38 mm
Purchased 1959

Display caption

In his mature work, Rothko abandoned specific reference to nature in order to paint images with universal associations. By the late 1940s, he had developed a style in which hazy, pulsating rectangles float within a vertical format. He explained that these shapes 'have no direct association with any particular visible experience, but in them one recognises the principle and passion of organisms'.

Gallery label, August 2004

Catalogue entry

Mark Rothko 1903-1970

T00275 Light Red over Black 1957

Not inscribed
Oil on canvas, 91 5/8 x 60 1/8 (232.5 x 152.5); the paint surface also extends around the stretcher
Purchased from the artist through the Sidney Janis Gallery, New York (Grant-in-Aid) 1959
Exh: XXIX Biennale, Venice, June-October 1958 (US pavilion 19)
Repr: Studio, CLIX, 1960, p.107 in colour; John Rothenstein, The Tate Gallery (London 1966), p.262; Ronald Alley, Recent American Art (London 1969), pl.9

Rothko's earlier abstract pictures were light in tone and often vivid in colour, then he changed to working in darker tones. As he wrote to the compiler on 1 February 1960: 'The dark pictures began in 1957 and have persisted almost compulsively to this day'.

Published in:
Ronald Alley, Catalogue of the Tate Gallery's Collection of Modern Art other than Works by British Artists, Tate Gallery and Sotheby Parke-Bernet, London 1981, p.657, reproduced p.657

Tate Paper

Psychosis and the Sublime in American Art: Rothko and Smithson

This paper addresses the work of Mark Rothko (1903–1970) and Robert Smithson (1938–1973), and, referring to the philosopher ...