American, born Russia, 1903–1970
Acrylic on canvas
137.5 x 69.5 cm
Gift of the artist
Accession number: B85.0457
Rothko’s signature works consist of broad, rectangular areas of varying number, proportions, and color, with softened edges, hovering one over the other. The juxtaposition of rectangles creates a sense of dynamism, or, as Rothko put it, “either their surfaces are expansive and push outward in all directions, or their surfaces contract and rush inward in all directions. Between these poles you can find everything I want to say” (quoted in James E. B. Breslin, Mark Rothko: A Biography [Chicago and London, 1993], p. 301).
In this painting, blue and yellow fields of color are suspended in conflicted unity within a reddish-orange surface. Rothko meant for the viewer to stand in close proximity to the painting, to be enveloped in its colors and swept into an emotional and existential state.