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Mark Rothko (1903 - 1970)

Lot 16: Mark Rothko , 1903 - 1970 Black, Red-Brown on Violet acrylic on paper mounted on panel


May 12, 2009
New York, NY, US

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acrylic on paper mounted on panel


39 x 25 1/2 in. 99 x 64.7 cm.


Pittsburgh, Carnegie Museum of Art, Pittsburgh Collects, February - April 1993


Marlborough-Gerson Gallery, Inc., New York
Sotheby's, New York, November 11, 1988, Lot 122
Acquired by the present owner from the above


Painted in 1969.
Black, Red-Brown on Violet is a subtly dramatic example of Rothko's intuitive talent in reducing his aesthetic to the pure elements of color and composition, achieving expressive effects by mixing and layering his pigment with exquisite touch. Painting at the height of his powers, Rothko began with a velvety ground of dark violet. His final layers are the upper register of black and a brushy lower register of brown. Yet the thin paint application of the brown creates a painterly veil through which our eye comprehends a subtle rosy hue that is the subliminal presence of an underlying color. Traces of this pinkish-red interlayer emerge at the edges and along the horizon line, while the overall effect is a warm reddish brown. Once again, within the intimacy of the paintings on paper, Rothko is the master at balancing the optics of paint with a metaphysical aura. Black, Red-Brown on Violet is the epitome of Rothko's early1949 quote, ``The progression of a painter's work ...will be toward clarity: toward the elimination of all obstacles between the painter and the idea, and between the idea and the observer....To achieve this clarity is, inevitably, to be understood.'' (The Tiger's Eye, no. 9, October 1949, p. 114)

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Contemporary Art Evening Sale

May 12, 2009, 12:00 AM EST

New York, NY, US

For Sale from Sotheby's