No. 21

Mark Rothko American, born Russia

On view at The Met Fifth Avenue in Gallery 830

In the pivotal year of 1949, Rothko distanced himself from his Surrealist-inspired work of the 1940s and began to explore pure abstraction by painting soft-focus squares in diaphanous colors. 1949 is also the year that Matisse's 1911 painting The Red Studio, in which the artist's room is subsumed by a brilliant field of solid Venetian red, went on view at the Museum of Modern Art. The combination in No. 21 of a deep red with slate blue underpainting is close to Matisse's painting. As if to emphasize the process that occurs in his own work, Rothko said of The Red Studio—purportedly his favorite modern picture—"When you looked at that painting, you became that color, you became totally saturated with it."

No. 21, Mark Rothko (American (born Russia, now Latvia), Dvinsk 1903–1970 New York), Oil and acrylic with powdered pigments on canvas

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