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Untitled
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Untitled
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Untitled

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About the item

Mark Rothko’s Untitled of 1969 is an exceptional oil painting on paper for its sheer scale as a work of this medium and its archetypal embodiment of the artist’s legendary color-field compositions. Deeply meditative blues surround the central black horizontal stripe, stirring an irresistible tonal and chromatic energy through the same pictorial vocabulary as the artist’s most celebrated and revered canvases. Included in the 1998-99 travelling retrospective that started at the National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C., this work is a true triumph of an art form that was of profound importance to the artist towards the end of his life. In the later 1960s Rothko devoted significant focus to exploring the absolute limits of painting on paper and, as with the present work, achieved paintings that carried a freshness and vitality that had sometimes started to wane in his later black canvases. Until his death in 1970, the course of this late period of his life and art was determined by the tragic onset of introspection and despair, which was famously reflected in his palette shifting towards ominously darker tones. However, the process of working on paper and the natural luminosity of its surface appear to have precipitated a different type of output from Rothko in these final years, and the serene aura emitted by Untitledis characteristic of some of the artist’s most captivating work. The present work emanates an endemic luminosity through the paper's capacity both to absorb and to reflect, and its composition is infused with a certain energized tranquility. Here the bar of rich dark hues simultaneously conjures both a central presence and a void-like absence, pushing out into the expanse of blue around it at the same time as apparently drawing the color into its abyss. This horizontal axis provides both a point of focus and demarcates a perennial balance-counterbalance relationship between the areas above and below. The work's resultant dynamism necessitates the viewer's constant attention and provides an elegant visual manifestation of the artist’s 1953 statement: "Either their surfaces are expansive and push outward in all directions, or their surfaces contract and rush inward in all directions. Between these two poles you can find everything I want to say." (Mark Rothko in 1953, cited in James E. B. Breslin, Mark Rothko: A Biography, Chicago, 1998, p. 301)\nTwenty years before he executed the current work Rothko wrote, "I think of my pictures as dramas; the shapes in the pictures are the performers. They have been created from the need for a group of actors who are able to move dramatically without embarrassment and execute gestures without shame. Neither the action nor the actors can be anticipated, or described in advance. They begin as an unknown adventure in an unknown space." (Mark Rothko, 'The Romantics Were Prompted', 1947, Clifford Ross, ed., Abstract Expressionism: Creators and Critics, New York, 1990, p. 167) By the time of the present painting and in the final year of his life Rothko had reduced his aesthetic language to one that was utterly and instinctively his own, and of course one that had already become instantly recognizable. Nevertheless, despite the evolution of his formal pictorial style, the central thesis of his art to create drama out of the interaction between different tensions remained central to Rothko's abstraction. While there is no figurative or literal metaphor here, the painting issues an experience that in itself becomes art. Rothko’s paintings were specifically designed to incite subjective reaction and our experience here is deeply personal, not least insofar as this work promotes reflection within us that is perhaps unknowable to others. Rothko's abhorrence of formal analysis of his work was demonstrated when he rebuked William Seitz's itemized criticism by saying "I want pure response in terms of human need." (Mark Rothko cited in Exh. Cat., London, Tate Gallery, Mark Rothko, 1999, p. 303) Untitled surpasses universal interpretation. Rather, it proves the final manifestation of Bonnie Clearwater's assertion that Rothko's "works on paper chart the artist's quest for an elemental language that would communicate basic human emotions and move all mankind." (Bonnie Clearwater, Mark Rothko: Works on Paper, New York, 1984, p. 17)
US
NY, US
US

medium

Oil on paper laid on board

creator

Mark Rothko

condition

This painting is in very good condition. Please contact the Contemporary Art Department at 212-606-7254 for the condition report prepared by Terrence Mahon. The canvas is not framed In response to your inquiry, we are pleased to provide you with a general report of the condition of the property described above. Since we are not professional conservators or restorers, we urge you to consult with a restorer or conservator of your choice who will be better able to provide a detailed, professional report. Prospective buyers should inspect each lot to satisfy themselves as to condition and must understand that any statement made by Sotheby's is merely a subjective qualified opinion. NOTWITHSTANDING THIS REPORT OR ANY DISCUSSIONS CONCERNING CONDITION OF A LOT, ALL LOTS ARE OFFERED AND SOLD "AS IS" IN ACCORDANCE WITH THE CONDITIONS OF SALE PRINTED IN THE CATALOGUE.

dimensions

48 1/2 x 40 1/2 in. 123.2 x 102.9 cm.

exhibition

Basel, Galerie Beyeler, Mark Rothko, November 1990 - January 1991, cat. no. 11, illustrated in color Hildesheim, Roemer-und Pelizaeus-Museum; Braunschweig, Dominikanerkloster St. Albertus Magnus, Passion: Bernward - Jahr 1993, May - July 1993, p. 93, illustrated in color (shown in Hildesheim only) Basel, Galerie Beyeler, Magic Blue, December 1993 - March 1994, cat. no. 68, p. 38, illustrated in color Washington, D.C., National Gallery of Art; New York, Whitney Museum of American Art; Paris, Musée d’Art Moderne, Mark Rothko, May 1998 – April 1999, cat. no. 107, p. 225, illustrated in color

literature

Judith Trepp, "Reviews: Basel, Magic Blue, Beyeler," Art News, vol. 93, no. 5, May 1994, p. 169, illustrated

provenance

Marlborough-Gerson Gallery, New York (acquired from the artist in 1969) Private Collection (acquired from the above, inscribed with the Estate no. 2013.69) Ellen Donahue Gallery, New York (acquired from the above in 1989) Galerie Beyeler, Basel (acquired from the above in 1989) Acquired by the present owner from the above in 1994

creator_nationality_dates

1903 - 1970





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