Red on Maroon – Mark Rothko

I usually write about things that I like, or that have inspired me.  Today I thought I would give you an artist which I recently said I didn’t like when I wrote about “The Blacker Gachet” simply because if you haven’t heard of Rothko, you wouldn’t know what I was talking about or why I have an absolute aversion to his work.

I think reading about Rothko’s work is actually more exciting than viewing it, as critics talk about “Multiforms” and the pieces being in touch with organic human emotions, but for me I just can’t get on board with how much Rothko fans see in his works.

Rothko was an American painter of Russian origins.  His father moved the family to the USA in 1913 out of fear that his eldest sons would be drafted to the Imperial Russian Army.  Rothko excelled in school, and despite receiving a scholarship to Yale, dropped out after his sophomore year.  In 1923 Rothko was working in New York’s garment district, when he visited a friend at the Art Students League of New York who was sketching a model.  This is apparently the point that Rothko started his life in the world of arts.

Moving permanently to  New York, Rothko was able to submerge himself in the expressionist and surrealist world of the artists at the time.  His career is littered with art shows and different styles of art which he experimented with, before discovering his own style.

It wasn’t until 1946 that he started to create his multiform paintings (Rothko never used this term).  The painting devoid of landscape and human form, were made up of blocks of colour which were set to represent emotion and invoke snap feelings in the viewer.  These types of paintings became Rothko’s signature style.  Starting with vibrant reds and oranges, which we said to indicate energy and passion, which later in his life turned to dark blues and blacks, which were said to indicate his own state of mind and the depressive state that he was in.

In 1970, Rothko was found dead in his kitchen after overdosing on antidepressants and slashing his own wrists.  He died on the same day that some of his works arrived at the Tate for display.

For “Red on Maroon” I have reviewed many descriptions and most harp on about how the red rectangle appears to hover over the maroon background.  A soft luminescence is said to overwhelm the large scale canvas, giving the audience a feeling of passion, tragedy and sublime.  Apparently this is supposed to create a basic expression through the exploration of colour and form.

Although Rothko denied that he was part of a certain style, art scholars and critics have put him in the abstract expressionism group.

So, now I have told you about the artist and what the critics see in this, how do you feel about it?  I know I feel that a child could have painted this.  With its patchy for and blurred lines, it feels far too basic to bring anything about for me other than rage that this should be considered a serious work of art.

This almost strikes me as a patch test for someone who was not sure what colour to paint their bedroom.

Rothko was said to feel that the rectangles in his work identified “things” (really explanatory there…thanks fella) which could be inanimate objects, or could stand for portraits.

Interestingly, Rothko was writing a book, which remained unfinished about how art derives from the artwork of children, being a form of primitivism.  I can certainly see why he thought that, especially in his own pieces.

When you see so many forms of art, it is really difficult to warm to this style as it appears to have no real technique or justification to be hanging in a gallery.

How do you see Rothko’s work?  Why don’t you tell me in the comments?  Like this post?  Why not share it?


4 thoughts on “Red on Maroon – Mark Rothko

Add yours

  1. I actually love Rothko’s work, but I am a big fan of abstract expressionism overall and naive art (which is the child-like aspect of art). I don’t think celebrating the natural creativity of children is a bad thing. To me, kids are the most creative humans around.

    Liked by 3 people

  2. Well, maybe you guessed it – but I adore Rothko’s work. I got to see a few of his paintings at the NGV (Melbourne, Australia) years ago. They are large, imposing and unique. The colors almost ‘glow’ on the canvas, creating a moody atmosphere. They are really beautiful. They have a real presence about them.
    I tried to replicate something similar in my own studio, but I couldn’t do it. Rothko’s
    work is not easy to copy… it’s deceptively complex.
    I also got to see the famous painting “Blue Poles”, by Jackson Pollock at the NGV, too. (From the Abstract Expressionist movement.) I think that when you see these kind of works in person, you can find a greater appreciation for them…. because you can’t get an idea of scale, texture and overall ‘presence’ from seeing small pictures of these paintings.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I have seen them in person. I do travel around a lot seeing art work, and trust me I don’t take it lightly when I don’t like something. I’m hoping you’ve read enough of my articles to know I really do try to find the meaning or presence of a piece. Sadly for me Rothko’s work is just something I can’t get on board with. I do appreciate that others will see something that I don’t though

      Liked by 1 person

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