Mark Rothko American, born Russia

Not on view

In the mid-1940s Rothko focused on watercolor, experimenting with the medium to produce compositions with pictographic or biomorphic elements that referenced prehistoric forms of expression such as cave paintings, carved symbols, and glyphs. Like his friend and fellow artist Adolph Gottlieb, Rothko drew on the works of European modernists, particularly Paul Klee and Joan Miró, to create an emerging aesthetic language that incorporated cross-cultural imagery. Inspired by Surrealist automatism, in which the artist ceded conscious control to allow the creative forces of the unconscious to act, Rothko developed his abstract imagery in this period. Luminous and transparent, watercolors like the one seen here mark a turning point in his career and prefigure his later radiant, abstract canvases that established him as a key figure in American painting.

Untitled, Mark Rothko (American (born Russia, now Latvia), Dvinsk 1903–1970 New York), Watercolor on paper

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