Room 7: Seagram Studies

Mark Rothko Untitled 1958–9

Mark Rothko
Untitled 1958–9

National Gallery of Art, Washington Gift of The Mark Rothko Foundation, Inc. 1986 © Kate Rothko Prizel and Christopher Rothko/DACS 1998

Mark Rothko Untitled 1958–9

Mark Rothko
Untitled 1958–9

National Gallery of Art, Washington Gift of The Mark Rothko Foundation, Inc. 1986 © Kate Rothko Prizel and Christopher Rothko/DACS 1998

Mark Rothko Untitled 1958–9

Mark Rothko
Untitled 1958–9

National Gallery of Art, Washington Gift of The Mark Rothko Foundation, Inc. 1986 © Kate Rothko Prizel and Christopher Rothko/DACS 1998

Mark Rothko Untitled 1958–9

Mark Rothko
Untitled 1958–9

National Gallery of Art, Washington Gift of The Mark Rothko Foundation, Inc. 1986 © Kate Rothko Prizel and Christopher Rothko/DACS 1998

Mark Rothko Sketch for 'Mural No. 1' 1958

Mark Rothko
Sketch for ‘Mural No. 1’ 1958

Kawamura Memorial Museum of Art, Sakura © Kate Rothko Prizel and Christopher Rothko/DACS 1998

Mark Rothko Sketch for 'Mural No. 4' 1958

Mark Rothko
Sketch for ‘Mural No. 4’ 1958

Kawamura Memorial Museum of Art, Sakura © Kate Rothko Prizel and Christopher Rothko/DACS 1998

Mark Rothko Black on Maroon Sketch for 'Mural No. 6' 1958

Mark Rothko
Black on Maroon Sketch for ‘Mural No. 6’ 1958

Tate. Presented by the artist through the American Federation of Arts 1968 © Kate Rothko Prizel and Christopher Rothko/DACS 1998

Mark Rothko Untitled (Study for Seagram Mural) 1958–9

Mark Rothko
Untitled (Study for Seagram Mural) 1958–9

Collection of Christopher Rothko © Kate Rothko Prizel and Christopher Rothko/DACS 1998
Mark Rothko Untitled (Study for Seagram Mural) 1958–9

Mark Rothko
Untitled (Study for Seagram Mural) 1958–9

Collection of Christopher Rothko © Kate Rothko Prizel and Christopher Rothko/DACS 1998

Mark Rothko Untitled (Study for Seagram Mural) 1958–9

Mark Rothko
Untitled (Study for Seagram Mural) 1958–9

Collection of Christopher Rothko © Kate Rothko Prizel and Christopher Rothko/DACS 1998

Mark Rothko Untitled (Study for Seagram Mural) 1958–9

Mark Rothko
Untitled (Study for Seagram Mural) 1958–9

Collection of Christopher Rothko © Kate Rothko Prizel and Christopher Rothko/DACS 1998

Mark Rothko Untitled 1958–9

Mark Rothko
Untitled 1958–9

National Gallery of Art, Washington Gift of The Mark Rothko Foundation, Inc. 1986 © Kate Rothko Prizel and Christopher Rothko/DACS 1998

From the outset of his career Rothko made works on paper in parallel to those on canvas, and continued to do so as his colour field work developed throughout the 1950s. He applied what he learnt from one medium to another, experimenting more freely on paper while testing compositions and developing techniques that could be used when painting on canvas. To some degree he used oil paints in a way not dissimilar to watercolour, thinning the medium and applying it quickly.

Dan Rice, Rothko’s studio assistant at the time, recalls that, while working on the Seagram murals, Rothko also made much smaller works on paper in a room adjacent to the main studio. Though closely related to the paintings, they should be considered as works in their own right, not least as none is a directly preparatory sketch for a finished mural. Rather, they explore a closely linked set of painterly concerns expressed in the shared composition, palette, feathered brushwork, and layering of colour, particularly the way Rothko exposed brighter sections of colour around the frame to highlight its delicate edges.