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This work belongs to the transitional period between Rothko’s mythical, surrealist paintings of the early 1940s and the block-like compositions of his mature style. He had seen references to primeval myth as reflecting the brutal anxieties of a world at war. Increasingly, however, he saw literal depictions of these mythic subjects as inhibiting the viewer’s response. Describing the biomorphic forms in paintings such as this, he wrote: ‘every shape becomes an organic entity, inviting the multiplicity of associations inherent in all living things’.

July 2012