Mark Rothko, ‘Untitled’ c.1950–2
Mark Rothko
Untitled c.1950–2
Tate
© Kate Rothko Prizel and Christopher Rothko/DACS 2019

What kind of emotion do you think he has painted here?

Rothko thought that the greatest paintings were the ones that captured a sense of stillness, and that is what he tried to do.

He painted rectangles with fuzzy edges. Why do you think he made them look blurry? It’s a bit like looking through binoculars before they have been focused.

Mark Rothko, ‘Light Red Over Black’ 1957
Mark Rothko
Light Red Over Black 1957
Tate
© Kate Rothko Prizel and Christopher Rothko/DACS 2019

Do you think the rectangles are floating? Rothko wanted you to think they might be.

Rothko was born in Latvia in 1903, but when he was ten his family moved to America. He studied painting at Yale University and then became one of ‘The Ten’, a group of ambitious young artists who wanted to promote abstract art in America.

This painting is one of a series Rothko made when he was at the height of his fame.

Do you think the rectangles are floating? Rothko wanted you to think they might be.

Rothko was born in Latvia in 1903, but when he was ten his family moved to America. He studied painting at Yale University and then became one of ‘The Ten’, a group of ambitious young artists who wanted to promote abstract art in America.

This painting is one of a series Rothko made when he was at the height of his fame.

Mark Rothko, ‘Black on Maroon’ 1958
Mark Rothko
Black on Maroon 1958
Tate
© Kate Rothko Prizel and Christopher Rothko/DACS 2019

There is a strange story attached to it. In 1957 Rothko was commissioned to make a series of paintings for a very expensive restaurant in New York. The problem was that Rothko didn’t want his paintings to be hung where rich people were eating, but he thought it might be interesting to see if he could make paintings that were so dark and oppressive they would put the diners off their food!

He made a series of black and maroon pictures that were very sombre. When they were finished he decided not to give them to the restaurant and gave them to Tate instead. They are called The Segram Murals.

Mark Rothko, ‘Red on Maroon’ 1959
Mark Rothko
Red on Maroon 1959
Tate
© Kate Rothko Prizel and Christopher Rothko/DACS 2019

Rothko died a year after donating the murals to Tate and he is now considered to be one of the finest abstract artists in America.

You can come see Rothko’s paintings at Tate Modern today! How do these paintings make you feel?