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15 of the Most Famous Paintings by Mark Rothko

Mark Rothko, being of a Russian Jewish descent is a famous American painter noteworthy for his host of abstract paintings interspersed with a brilliant fusion of colors. The Rothko Chapel, located in Texas’ Houston is not merely a chapel but also showcases the master’s brilliant works of art with his fourteen dark paintings gracing the walls. The chapel was listed in the National Register of Historic Places in 2000. 

Mark Rothko

Another of Rothko’s remarkable milestones is the mural paintings he was commissioned to make for the Four Seasons restaurant located on Park Avenue and owned by Joseph Seagram and Sons. However, on visiting the restaurant with his wife when it was on the verge of completion, he refused to have his paintings hung at a place that would be dined by the affluent class, hence discontinuing the project. He died in 1970 and was found smeared with blood in his kitchen, though the actual cause of his death remains a mystery.

Biography of Mark Rothko in a Nutshell

Full Name Mark Rothko
Birth 25th September 1903
Nationality American
Death 25th February 1970
Mentor Milton Avery
Inspiration Friedrich Nietzsche, John Graham, Milton Avery
Periods Abstract expressionism, Color field

List of Best Paintings by Mark Rothko

1. Black on Maroon

Mark Rothko’s Black on Maroon

Mark Rothko’s Black on Maroon

Completed in: 1958
Style: Washington Color School
Measurements: 266.7 cm × 381.2 cm
Location: Tate Modern, London
Medium: Oil paint, acrylic paint, glue tempera and pigment on canvas

Belonging to the list of Rothko’s unique works of abstractions it was one of the three canvas series he painted between 1958 and 1959 to serve as murals for the restaurant, the Four Seasons situated in Seagram Building, Park Avenue, New York. It is an unframed painting on a rectangular canvas, with deep maroon being the base color. He has wonderfully played with the color maroon blending deep wine with shades of mauve to highlight the sense of depth. The black rectangle encloses the two maroon boxes forming a window-like structure.

2. Untitled (Black on Grey)

Mark Rothko Untitled Black on Grey

Untitled Black on Grey by Mark Rothko

Completed in: 1970
Style: Abstract art
Measurements: 203.3 cm × 175.5 cm
Location: National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.
Medium: Acrylic on canvas

Another of his masterpiece, this is symbolic of death according to Rothko himself. The rectangles placed one on top of another are desolate and empty, also hinting at a sense of ambiguity in the manner of presentation.

3. No. 61 (Rust and Blue)

No.61 Rust and Blue Mark Rothko Paintings

No.61 Rust and Blue Mark Rothko Painting

Completed in: 1953
Style: Washington Color School
Measurements: 292.73 cm × 233.68 cm
Location: Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles
Medium: Oil on canvas

This presentation belongs to the Color Feld Movement where layered colors have been used for enrichment. His technique might seem simple, but when examined from close quarters it has been made luminous because of its varying effects. The nature of painting is such that the colors appear to run upwards across its surface, the reason being Rothko’s tendency to invert the picture on reaching the end of his artwork.

4. Untitled (Yellow and Blue)

Mark Rothko Yellow and Blue Painting

Mark Rothko Yellow and Blue Painting

Completed in: 1954
Style: Color Field Painting
Measurements: 242 cm x 186 cm
Location: Private Collection
Medium: Oil on canvas

A classic masterpiece, highlighting a powerful interplay of color and light. It was sold at Sotheby’s auction for a whopping $46.5 million dollars.

5. No. 1 (Royal Red and Blue)

Red and Blue Painting by Rothko

Red and Blue Painting by Rothko

Completed in: 1954
Style: Washington Color School, Abstract
Measurements: 288 cm× 170.18
Location: Private Collection
Medium: Oil on canvas

The vibrant red and orange shades are brilliantly balanced by the blue hue stacked at the base, giving the viewers the notion of the canvas being illuminated. His innovative mind of dealing with the abstract and presenting it ambiguously has been reflected here too. This artwork also was sold for an exorbitant amount of £47.2m at Sotheby’s auction in 2012.

6. Blue and Grey

Mark Rothko Blue and Grey Paintings

Mark Rothko Blue and Grey Painting

Completed in: 1962
Style: Color Field Painting
Measurements: 193.0 cm × 175.26 cm
Location: Private Collection
Medium: Oil on canvas

His tradition of filling the canvas with squares painted in rich colors which he deems as the sublime is seen here too. He had once denied of being an abstractionist but at the same time expressed his desire of portraying an array of human emotions like solitude, loneliness, doom, and desolation through his work of art, a trait that he justifies through this painting perfectly.

7. Orange Red and Yellow

Orange Red Yellow Painting By Rothko

Orange Red Yellow Painting By Rothko

Completed in: 1961
Style: Abstract art
Measurements: 236.22 cm × 208.28 cm
Location: Private collection
Medium: Acrylic on canvas

It is said to be one of the finest and powerful of his several paintings according to a particular observer, who even mentioned that the yellow and orange rectangles against a cherry red background were indeed eye-catching to the viewers just as the glowing sun as it is about to set or a bright colored popsicle. The spectacular effect is achieved due to Rothko’s technique of creating many thin layers and then smearing it on the canvas in an uneven way using a brush. It attained a price of $70 million at the 2012 auction, with the bidding going for about seven minutes between three bidders.

8. White Center (Yellow, Pink and Lavender on Rose)

Mark Rothko White Center Painting

White Center Painting by Rothko

Completed in: 1950
Style: Color Field, Washington Color School
Measurements: 206 cm x 141 cm
Location: The Royal Family of Qatar
Medium: Oil on canvas

The brilliant use of color schemes all blended into a single painting enhances a feeling of warmth, brightness, and happiness. It earned  $ 72.84 million achieving the record of being the costliest work of art sold at an auction post-war.

9. No.14

No 14 Rothko Art

No 14 Rothko Art

Completed in: 1960
Style: Washington Color School
Measurements: 290 cm x 268 cm
Location: San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (SFMOMA)
Medium: Oil on canvas

This work of art also witnesses a spectacular combination of two vibrant colors in a single frame, creating a subtle effect.

10. Blue Green and Brown

Blue Green and Brown Rothko Painting

Blue Green and Brown Rothko Painting

Completed in: 1952
Style: Abstract Art
Measurements: 81.99 cm x 65 cm
Location: Private Collection
Medium: Oil on canvas

The intricate use of color makes the image unique and realistic, appealing to the readers to the fullest.

11. Green and Tangerine on Red

Green Tangerine and Red Rothko Paintings

Green Tangerine and Red Rothko Painting

Completed in: 1956
Style: Color Field, Abstract expressionism, Washington Color School
Measurements: 237 cm x 167 cm
Location: The Phillips Collection
Medium: Oil on canvas

Certain critics say that the tangerine shade in the lower part of the canvas could mean the happier phase of human life, whereas the bluish-green portion might be indicative of the pall of gloom or worries which mostly plague us.

12. Green and Maroon

Green and Maroon Paintings of Rothko

Green and Maroon Painting of Rothko

Completed in: 1953
Style: Abstract expressionism, Color Field, Washington Color School
Measurements: 232 cm x 139 cm
Location: The Phillips Collection
Medium: Oil on canvas

There seems to be a sense of stillness and somberness in the composition as the shades have a dimmed and dark appearance.

13. Untitled (Green Divided by Blue)

Untitled (Green Divided by Blue)

Untitled Green Divided by Blue by Rothko

Completed in: 1968
Style: Abstract art
Measurements: 99.06 cm x 73.66 cm
Location: Phoenix Art Museum
Medium: Oil on canvas

Two green squares intersected by a blue rectangle make this painting another unique masterpiece of Rothko.

14. No.6 (Violet, Green and Red)

No.6 (Violet, Green and Red) Rothko’s Painting

No.6 (Violet, Green and Red) Rothko’s Painting

Completed in: 1951
Style: Abstract Art
Measurements: 41.91 cm x 69.85 cm
Location: Private Collection
Medium: Oil on canvas

The uneven and hazy shades create a sense of ambiguity. Dmitry Rybolovlev purchased this painting in the year 2014 for a price of €140 million.

15. Entrance to Subway

Entrance to Subway Rothko Painting

Entrance to Subway Rothko Painting

Completed in: 1938
Style: Expressionism, History Painting
Measurements: 87 cm x 117 cm
Location: Sammlung Kate Rothko Prizel
Medium: Oil on canvas

His Subway scenes is an outcome of the exhibitions he attended namely Fantastic Art, Dada and Surrealism and Cubism and Abstract Art at the Museum of Modern Art. Here his interest lies not in the plying trains but the human beings waiting on the platforms or commuting to and fro. He has focused on the vertical and horizontal forms with the figures that he presents being tall as well as stick-like in appearance. His stations are also unique as they are neither dark or hellish nor are they filled with the hustle and bustle of the crowd but are rather solitary and desolate.

His other remarkable works hinting at abstraction with an ambiguous theme and a lot of depth include Earth and Green (1955), Four Darks in Red (1958), With Over Red (1957), and Multiform (1948).

By|Last Updated : 10th March 2019

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