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Mark Rothko (1903 - 1970)

Lot 144: Mark Rothko (1903-1970)


November 13, 2008
New York, NY, US

More About this Item


Mark Rothko (1903-1970)
No. 9
oil on canvas
17¾ x 14¾ in. (45.1 x 37.5 cm.)
Painted in 1947 (dated as 1946 on Betty Parsons Gallery label).


New York, The Betty Parsons Gallery, 1949.
New York, Katonah Gallery, Color, February-March 1970.
Tokyo, Seibu Museum of Art, Three Decades of American Art Selected by the Whitney Museum, June-July 1976, no. 12 (illustrated in color).


D. Anfam, Mark Rothko: The Works on Canvas Catalogue Raisonné, New Haven and London, 1998, p. 283, no. 366 (illustrated in color).


Betty Parsons, New York, acquired in 1952
Anon. sale; Christie's, New York, 9 November 1983, lot 328
Private collection, New York
Jan Krugier Gallery, New York
Ameringer & Avard Fine Art, Inc., new York
Private collection, Switzerland
Gallery Urban, Nagoya-New York-Paris
Anon. sale; Sotheby's, New York, 17 November 1992, lot 29
Acquired at the above sale by the present owner


Property from a Distinguished Post-War Collector

Untitled dates from 1947, an important year for Mark Rothko. After an extensive exploration of art history, Rothko was finally able to realize his unique voice, creating richly painted dramas of delicately floating forms. Rothko wrote, "I am not interested in relationships of color or form or anything else. I am interested only in expressing the basic human emotions--tragedy, ecstasy, doom, and so on--and the fact that lots of people break down and cry when confronted with my pictures shows that they communicate with those basic human emotions. The people who weep before my pictures are having the same religious experience I had when I painted them. And if you, as you say, are moved only by their color relationships, then you miss the point!" (quoted in S. Rodman, Conversations with Artists, New York, 1957, pp. 93-94).

Untitled, 1947 is comprised of luscious clouds of orange, with soft touches of pink and blue that subtly morph from one hue to another. The color and composition are transient, one giving way to another with the formal relationships constantly shifting. It is an exuberant and elusive painting whose multiple forms and colors provoke our emotions through its organic composition which undermines its own structural fixedness and veracity.

Untitled belongs to a series refered as Multiforms. Mark Stevens has described them as 'works marvelously in flux, all the elements in place, the string still not pulled taut' (M. Stevens, Mark Rothko, Mark Rothko Multiforms, exh. cat., The Pace Gallery, New York, 1990, p. 4). Untitled, 1947 and other paintings from 1946-1948 have not yet coalesced into the floating rectangles that define Rothko's later work. It is the sense of discovery, of an artist testing the limit of his aesthetic powers coming up each time with provocative and unique solutions, that gives the Multiforms their power. Untitled is a fully realized picture that is wholly satisfying as well as a pivotal destination in the artist's life journey toward the spiritual and the sublime.

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