Tate Modern holds the largest exhibition of Mark Rothko

M. Rothko. Red, orange, beige and purple. 1949. Oil on canvas. The private collection

On September 26, the Tate Modern in London presents a major exhibition of one of the most famous and extraordinary artists of the 20th century – Mark Rothko. This is the first significant exhibition of his work to be held for over 20 years which represent all the sides of the artist’s talent including the early “symbolical” works, celebrated “flowery fields” of 1940s–1950s and also dull saturated abstract works of the last decade of the painter’s life. Many pictures were exhibited by the state museums and private collections from every corner of the globe, however, the core of the Tate Modern exposition is works from the collection of the gallery − 9 paradigmatic canvases made in 1950s on the order of the Four Seasons New York restaurant. They are known as Seagram Murals.

Seagram Murals is considered the top success of Mark Rothko’s career. They were made by the request of designer Phillis Lambert who was the designer of interiors of the Four Seasons bohemian restaurant located in the New York Seagram skyscraper. In 1959 Lambert offered the artist who had already gained his fame in the New York circles to create nine monumental canvases for a vip-hall at the restaurant. Having finished some canvases Rothko unexpectedly refused to show work and cancelled the greatest order in his life. According to memoirs of the contemporaries the reason was in the artist’s sophisticated character and radical communistic visions. Having visited the restaurant which was considered the embodiment of luxury and bohemian life of New York, he realized that “he sold his soul to capitalism”. “The one who will feast around these prices will not even glance at my pictures”, − the artist announced and ripped up the contract for $35 000. The Seagram Murals finished after all was sent to the collection of the Tate London gallery. On the strange coincidence of circumstances nine canvases arrived to Great Britain on February, 25, 1970, in the day when the artist committed suicide in his workshop in New York.

Mark Rothko went from Symbolism to the abstract painting and Minimalism. His abstract works created under the influence of Dadaism and Expressionism became simpler throughout the whole decade. As a result they turned to combinations of the simplest geometrical surfaces named “colour stains” and “doorways”. In search of the necessary tone and colour combination, Rothko put many single color layers of oil paint and colourless varnish on the canvas. At times, he reached refined colour approach creating the illusion of pulsation and luminescence of the pictures. Last decade the artist started to paint in acryle. His works became more and more dark and gloomy, reflecting the character of conflicting inner world of the author.

Most of the works of 1960s were provided by the owners of private collections from Japan, Europe and the USA. Unlike Seagram Murals, the majority of them were exposed rarely in public.

The exhibition will be opened till February, 1, 2009

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Published in: on October 21, 2008 at 11:30 am  Leave a Comment  

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