Friday, March 3, 2017

Famous Paintings, Section 5



The WhiteRock  Family Digital  Art Gallery is presented in sections  containing eight images each of famous  paintings by
great artists.  The works  are arranged  according  to what are  generally  accepted and  what the author  thinks are the
best or the most important by the artists who are themselves presented according to the significance of their respective
contributions to art.

Some factors have to be  considered in order to understand  the criteria of the  selection of the works that are included
in this gallery. Examples of these are the influence of Western philosophy in the development of aesthetic  taste and the
adoption of   Western  values and  culture  in  the selection  of artistic  subjects,  the inspiration  that religious  faith has
provided in the creation of great art and the wealth and power of the Catholic Church to commission the services of the
greatest artists of the Renaissance and beyond.

On the other hand,  the human  form  has always  been a subject of  endless intellectual  speculation and this includes the
creation of tasteful art. Along this line, different cultures also have different standards of defining what is "tasteful."
These factors help explain the exclusion of certain aesthetic values and cultures in this selection as well as its liberality
over the selection of certain subjects that some individuals may otherwise find inappropriate.

Art may be objective, but the process of selecting cannot be but subjective. Beauty lies in the eyes of the beholder.     

Welcome to The WhiteRock Family Digital Art Gallery.




This section includes works by the following painters:

Paul Gauguin
 Édouard Manet
Marc Chagall
Henri Matisse
El Greco
Piet Mondrian
Mark Rothko
Another one soon

Click on the image to view on black background; the title of the work to go to the source.
The name of the artist and location of work link to sources of more information.

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Tahitian Women on the Beach
Paul Gauguin
Oil on canvas (1892)
 Musée d'Orsay, Paris

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Paul Gauguin spent much of his artistic career traveling the world, searching for artistic purity.  With that goal
in mind,  Gauguin obtained permission from the French government to travel to the  French Polynesian islands to
study the cultures, customs and landscapes.  In 1891,  he boarded the ship Océanien and set sail with the third class
passengers. Gauguin was on his way to “escape the European struggle for money - to be "free at last."

After arriving in Tahiti in June 1891,  he painted Tahitian Women on the Beach that summer.  He shows two women
sitting  in  the  sand,  one  facing  the viewer,  one  facing  away.  The young  woman  on  the  left  sits with  her back
towards us,  her head  down,  indifferent  to the  viewer.  She  wears a  red Pareo,  cloth  wrapped  around the body
forming  a skirt,  with a  white  floral  print  and  white top.  Her dark  hair  is tied  back  with a  yellow ribbon,  an
influence  of  western  contact,  contrasted  with a  white  flower  behind  her  hair.  She  leans  on  her  right  arm
creating a  straight hard  edge  within the painting.  The woman on the  right is shown  facing  the viewer  and not
just in a  contemplative stare;  she is  performing  an action.  She  sits  with her  legs crossed  as she weaves  fiber to
start a basket.  Like the woman on the left,  this woman  doesn’t  interact  with the  viewer.  Her gaze  goes beyond.
Unlike  the woman  on the left,  she wears  a full  dress  influenced  by the  missionaries.  Neither  woman  is shown
exactly as she was.  You would  not confuse  Gauguin's  paintings  for photographs.  He shows  them with  distorted
proportions, faces that can resemble masks, and colors separated by dark outlines.

They are both shown  in stark  contrast  against  the  light  sand they sit in.  Behind  them  the  green water of the
lagoon sits  before the  blackness of the sea,  highlighted  with the white  from  the waves  breaking.  The painting
shows duality in both the foreground  and background.  With the two women,  we see the  rich history of Tahiti  –
one  woman   dressed   in  the   traditional   sarong  while  the  other   shows  western   influence.   One  woman  sits
unoccupied by anything,  while the other faces the viewer, performing one of her daily duties, weaving the basket.
Like the women, we have calmness in the lagoon and movement in the sea.

Gauguin went to Tahiti to discover  the primitive and purity in Polynesian life and escape the modern France,  but
he almost immediately found and started painting the melancholy of the women and the colonial influence.
Gaugin Gallery

A Story Based on the Letters of Paul Gauguin Before He Left for Tahiti, video from The Guardian
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 A Bar at the Folies-Bergère
 Édouard Manet
Oil on canvas (1882)
Courtauld Gallery, London

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This  painting  was Manet’s  last  major work.  It represents  the bustling  interior  of one  of the  most  prominent
music halls and cabarets of Paris,  the Folies-Bergère.  The venue opened in 1869  and its atmosphere was described
as “unmixed joy”.  In contrast,  the barmaid in  Manet’s representation  is detached  and marooned  behind  the bar.

The Folies-Bergère  was also notorious as a place to pick up prostitutes.  The writer Guy de Maupassant described
the barmaids as “vendors of drink and of love”. The Courtauld Gallery

The central figure stands  before a mirror,  although critics  —  accusing  Manet of  ignorance of perspective and
alleging  various   impossibilities  in  the  painting  —  have  debated   this  point   since  the   earliest  reviews  were
published.  In 2000,  however,  a photograph  taken  from a suitable  point  of view  of a  staged reconstruction was
shown to  reproduce  the scene  as painted  by  Manet.  According  to  this reconstruction,  "the conversation  that
many have assumed was transpiring between  the barmaid and gentleman  is revealed to be an optical trick  —  the
man  stands  outside  the  painter's  field  of  vision,  to the left,  and  looks  away  from  the barmaid,  rather  than
standing right in front of her."  As it appears,  the observer should be standing to the right and closer to the bar
than the man  whose  reflection  appears  at the right edge of the picture.  This is an unusual  departure from the
central point of view usually assumed when viewing pictures drawn according to perspective.

Asserting  the presence  of the mirror has been  crucial  for many modern interpreters.  It provides a meaningful
parallel  with  Las  Meninas,   a  masterpiece  by  an  artist   Manet  admired,   Diego  Velázquez.   There  has   been  a
considerable development of this topic since Michel Foucault broached it in his book  The Order of Things (1966).

The art historian Jeffrey Meyers  describes the intentional play on perspective and the apparent violation of the
operations   of  mirrors:   “Behind  her,   and  extending  for  the  entire  length  of  the   four-and-a- quarter-foot
painting,  is the gold frame of an enormous mirror.  The French philosopher Maurice Merleau-Ponty has called a
mirror  ‘the instrument of a  universal magic that changes things  into spectacles,  spectacles into things, me into
others,  and  others into me.’  We,  the viewers,  stand opposite  the barmaid on the  other side of the  counter and,
looking at the reflection in the mirror,  see exactly what she sees...  A critic has noted that  Manet’s ‘preliminary
study shows her placed off to the right, whereas in the finished  canvas she is very much the centre of attention.’
Though Manet shifted her from the right to the center, he kept her reflection on the right. Seen in the mirror,
she seems engaged with a customer; in full face, she’s self-protectively withdrawn and remote.”

The  painting  is rich  in  details  which  provide  clues to  social class  and  milieu.  The  woman  at the  bar is  a real
person,  known as Suzon,  who worked at the  Folies-Bergère in the early 1880s.  For his painting,  Manet posed her
in his studio.  By including  a dish of oranges  in the  foreground,  Manet  identifies  the  barmaid  as a  prostitute,
according to art historian Larry L. Ligo, who says that Manet habitually associated oranges with prostitution in
his paintings. wikipedia

Manet's  A Bar at the Folies-Bergère video from zczfilms on YouTube.
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I and the Village
Marc Chagall
Oil on canvas (1911)
Museum of Modern Art, New York

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Famous  Russian-Jewish artist  Marc Chagall  was born in Belarus,  but later became a  naturalized  Frenchman in
1909.  The fact that he grew up in a small village would play a prominent role in many of his paintings,  including
his well-known creation I and the Village painted in Paris in 1911.

Clearly exhibiting aspects of Cubism,  I and the Village is a lively composition of various objects, human features
and  animal  components  that  are  fragmented,  superimposed,  and  randomly  assembled  to produce  an abstract
arrangement. The colours are vibrant and a stark contrast exists between the red, the green and the blue. It is a
painting that provides multiple viewpoints and distinctive perspectives.

Influenced   by   a   childhood   spent   in   rural   surroundings,    Chagall’s   I   and   the   Village   is   a   dreamlike
representation  of goats,  pastures,  a farmer,  a violinist,  and  simplistic  images of  houses,  some  of them  upside-
down. The whole could be viewed as a jigsaw puzzle extracted from a child’s imagination.

The  painting  possesses a  significant  amount of  intrigue  and  symbolism.  In the  foreground  of the  painting,  a
green-faced man,  wearing a cross around his neck,  a cap on his head,  and holding a glowing tree, stares directly
across at the head of a goat, which encompasses another smaller goat being milked.  In the background,  a row of
houses, an Orthodox  church,  and a man dressed  in black  carrying a scythe  hurries past an  upside  down woman
playing what appears to be a violin.

The  geometric  shapes and  symbols  grab the  viewer’s  attention.  The small  and large circles  have been  said to
represent  three spatial  phenomena:  the sun’s revolution  in orbit,  the earth’s  revolution around the sun,  and
the  moon’s  revolution  around  the earth.  Some  have  interpreted  the  smaller  circle  in the lower  left-hand
corner as an  eclipse.  I and the Village  illustrates  the  give and  take  between  beings  and the  vibrant natural
world  surrounding  them.  It is a  powerful  display  of the  mutual  relationship  between  humans,  animals and
plants. www.chagallpaintings.org

The significance  of  the  painting  lies  in  its  seamless   integration  of  various  elements  of   Eastern  European
folktales and culture,  both  Russian and  Yiddish.  Its clearly defined  semiotic elements  (e.g.  The Tree of Life)
and  daringly  whimsical  style  were  at the  time  considered  groundbreaking.   Its  frenetic,   fanciful  style  is
credited to Chagall's  childhood  memories  becoming, in the words of scholar  H.W. Janson,  a "cubist fairy tale"
reshaped by his imagination, without regard to natural color, size or even the laws of gravity. wikipedia

Marc Chagall I and the Village video from Museum of Modern Art
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The Dance
Henri Matisse
Oil on canvas (1910)
The Hermitage Museum, Saint Petersburg

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The pair of panels known as  "The Dance and Music"  (also in the Hermitage)  are amongst Matisse's most important -
and most  famous  -  works of  the period 1908 to 1913.  They were  commissioned  in 1910 by one of the leading Russian
collectors of   French late  19th and early 20th-century art,  Sergey Shchukin.  Until the  Revolution of 1917,  they
hung on the  staircase of his  Moscow mansion.  Both compositions  belong to a group of works  united by  the theme
of "the golden age" of humanity, and therefore the figures are not real people but imagined image-symbols.

The  sources  of  Matisse's  "The  Dance"  lie  in  folk  dances,   which  even  today  preserve  something  of  the  ritual
nature - albeit not  always comprehended today - of pagan times.  Before this canvas,  the theme of  the dance passed
through  several  stages  in  Matisse's work.  Only  in  this  composition  of  1910,  however,  did  it acquire  its famous
passion  and  expressive  resonance.   The  frenzy  of  the  pagan  bacchanalia  is  embodied  in the powerful,   stunning
accord of red,  blue and green,  uniting Man,  Heaven  and Earth.  How  rightly has  Matisse  captured the profound
meaning of the dance, expressing man's subconscious  sense of involvement in the rhythms of nature and the cosmos!

The five  figures have  firm outlines,  while the  deformation  of  those figures  is an expression  of their  passionate
arousal and the power of the all-consuming rhythm.  The swift,  joint movement fills  the bodies with untamed life
force and the red becomes  a symbol of inner heat.  The figures dance  in the deep blue of the  Cosmos and the green
hill is  charged  with  the energy  of the dancers,  sinking  beneath  their  feet  and then  springing back.  For  all its
expressiveness, Matisse's "The Dance" has no superfluous emotion, other than that required by the subject.

The very organisation  of the canvas  ensures that.  Instinct and  consciousness  are united into a harmonious whole,
as we can feel in the  balance between  centrifugal and centripetal forces,  and in the  outlines of the figure on the
left, strong and classical in proportion. The State Hermitage Museum

Dance II by Henri Matisse, video from Art in 60 Seconds on YouTube
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The Burial of the Count of Orgaz
El Greco
Oil on canvas (1586)
Iglesia de Santo Tomé, Toledo, Spain

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The Burial of the Count of Orgaz is widely considered among El Greco's finest works. It illustrates a popular local
legend of his time.  An exceptionally  large painting,  it is divided into two sections,  heavenly above  and terrestrial
below, but it gives little impression of duality. The upper and lower sections are brought together compositionally.

The theme of the painting is inspired from a legend of the 14th century.  In 1312,  a certain Don Gonzalo Ruíz,  native
of Toledo,  and  Señor  of  the  town  of Orgaz,  died  (his  family later  received  the  title  of  Count,  by  which  he  is
generally and  posthumously known).  The Count of Orgaz  was a pious man who,  among other charitable acts,  left a
sum of money for the  enlargement  and adornment  of the church of Santo Tomé  (El Greco's parish church).  He was
also a philanthropist and a right-thinking Knight. According to the legend, at the time he was buried, Saint Stephen
and  Saint  Augustine  descended  in person  from the  heavens  and  buried  him  by  their  own  hands in  front  of the
dazzled eyes of those present.

The painting was  commissioned  by Andrés Núñez,  the parish priest  of Santo Tomé,  for the side-chapel of the Virgin
of the church of Santo Tomé,  and was executed by El Greco between 1586–1588.  Núñez, who had initiated a project to
refurbish the Count's burial chapel, is portrayed in the painting reading.

Already in 1588,  people  were  flocking to  Orgaz to see  the  painting.  This  immediate  popular  reception  depended,
however, on the lifelike portrayal of the  notable men of Toledo of the time.  It was the custom for the eminent and
noble men  of the town  to assist the burial of the  noble-born,  and it was  stipulated in  the contract  that the scene
should be represented in this manner.  El Greco would pay  homage to the  aristocracy  of the spirit,  the clergy,  the
jurists,  the poets  and the scholars,  who honored  him and his art  with  their esteem,  by immortalizing  them in the
painting.  The Burial of the Count of Orgaz  has been admired  not only for its art,  but also because it  was a gallery
of portraits of the most eminent social figures of that time in Toledo.

The scene of the  miracle is  depicted  in the  lower part  of the composition,  in the terrestrial  section.  In the upper
part, the heavenly one, the clouds have parted to receive this just man in Paradise. Christ clad in white and in glory,
is the  crowning  point  of the  triangle  formed  by the  figures  of  the  Madonna  and  Saint  John  the Baptist  in the
traditional Orthodox  composition of the Deesis.  These three central figures of  heavenly glory are surrounded by
apostles, martyrs, Biblical kings and the just (among whom was Philip II of Spain, though he was still alive).

Saints  Augustine  and Stephen,  in golden  and  red  vestments  respectively,  bend  reverently  over the  body  of the
count,  who is clad in magnificent armour  that reflects the yellow and reds of the other figures.  The young boy at
the left is El Greco's son,  Jorge Manuel;  on a handkerchief  in his pocket is  inscribed the  artist's  signature and the
date 1578,  the year of the boy's birth.  The artist himself can be  recognised directly  above the raised  hand of one of
the mourners immediately above the head of Saint Stephen.

The  painting  has  a  chromatic  harmony  that  is  incredibly  rich,  expressive  and  radiant.  On  the   black  mourning
garments  of  the   nobles  are   projected  the  gold-embroidered  vestments,    thus   creating  an  intense   ceremonial
character.  In the heavenly space there is a predominance of  transparent  harmonies of iridescence and ivoried greys,
which harmonize  with the  gilded ochres,  while in the  Madonna's  maforium  (mantle)  deep blue is  closely combined
with  bright red.  The  rhetoric  of the  expressions,  the  glances  and the  gestural  translation  make the  scene very
moving.

The Burial of the  Count of Orgaz  is regarded  as the  first  completely  personal  work  by the  artist.  There  are no
longer any references to Roman or Venetian formulas or motifs.  He has succeeded in eliminating any description of
space.  There is no ground, no horizon,  no sky and no perspective.  Accordingly,  there is no conflict,  and a convincing
expression  of a  supernatural  space  is achieved.  According  to  Harold  Wethey,  the  supernatural  vision  of  Gloria
(“Heaven”)  above  and  the  impressive  array of  portraits  represent  all  aspects  of this  extraordinary  genius's  art.
Wethey  also  asserts  that  "El Greco's  Mannerist  method of  composition  is nowhere  more  clearly  expressed than
here, where all of the action takes place in the frontal plane". wikipedia

The Burial of the Count Orgaz by El Greco video by Anna Klimenko on Daily Motion.
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Still Life with Gingerpot I
Piet Mondrian
Oil on canvas (1911)
Gemeentemuseum, The Hague

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Piet Mondrian  was born  in 1872 in  Amersfoort in the  Netherlands,  the second  of his parents' children.  His father
was a qualified drawing teacher,  and, with his uncle,  Fritz Mondriaan  (a pupil of Willem Maris of the Hague School
of artists), the younger Piet often painted and drew along the river Gein. After a strictly Protestant upbringing, in
1892,  Mondrian entered the Academy for Fine Art in Amsterdam.  He already was qualified as a teacher. He began his
career  as a  teacher  in  primary  education,  but  he  also  practiced  painting.  Most  of  his  work  from  this  period  is
naturalistic or Impressionistic, consisting largely of landscapes. wikipedia

For more than a decade after  graduating from art school in 1897,  Piet Mondrian  created naturalistic drawings and
paintings  that  reflect  a  succession  of  stylistic  influences  including  academic  realism,  Dutch  Impressionism,  and
Symbolism.   During  this  period  and  intermittently  until  the  mid-1920s  Mondrian  created  more than a  hundred
pictures of flowers.  Reflecting years later  on his attraction  to the  subject,  he wrote,  “I enjoyed painting flowers,
not bouquets,  but a  single flower at a time,  in order  that I  might  better express  its plastic  structure.” The  heavy
crooked line of  Chrysanthemum  suggests  Mondrian’s  debt to Post-Impressionism,  specifically the  work of  Vincent
van Gogh.  In 1909 Mondrian  became interested  in theosophy,  a type of  philosophical  mysticism that seeks to disclose
the concealed essences of reality.  “I too find flowers beautiful in their exterior beauty,” he wrote a few years later,
“yet there is hidden within a deeper beauty.”

Mondrian was inspired by  Paul Cézanne’s  method of  breaking down  compositional elements  into  facets of color. In
Still  Life  with  Gingerpot  I   Mondrian began  to  employ such  avant-garde  techniques  as  passage  (brushwork  that
continues beyond the designated  edges of  objects)  and a  generally  looser  handling of paint.  Although muted,  the
palette of  Still Life with Gingerpot I  repeats the buoyant  blues  and roses of  Mondrian’s  earlier works,  as well as
their more  naturalistic  style  of representation,  exemplified  by the  retention of  traditional  perspective  and the
coherent integrity of the components of the still life such as the glass and saucepan.

Still Life with Gingerpot II  takes the  artist’s  first depiction  of this  motif to a  much greater  level of  abstraction.
The grid framework now interpolates the objects on the tabletop, and no vestiges of the glassware, stacked canvases,
or window frame  of the earlier  composition remain.  Mondrian’s works  of this period are  characterized by a strong
central motif (here the gingerpot)  around which the rest of the picture revolves in a symmetrical fashion.  While in
later paintings Mondrian developed a more dispersed field, his overarching concern for balance and order remained
constant. Jennifer Blessing on www.guggenheim.org

The Complete Works of Piet Mondrian from Tuen Tony Kwok on YouTube.

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Untitled (Violet, Black, Orange, Yellow on White and Red)
Mark Rothko
Oil on canvas (1949)
Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York

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Mark Rothko was born Markus Yakovlevich Rothkowitz on September 25, 1903 in Dvinsk, Vitebsk Governorate, in the
Russian Empire  (today in Latvia).  His father was a  pharmacist  and an intellectual  who provided  his children with a
secular and political, rather than religious, upbringing. According to Rothko, his pro-Marxist father was "violently
anti-religious".  In an environment where Jews were often blamed  for many of the evils that befell Russia,  Rothko's
early  childhood  was  plagued  by  fear.   Rothko's  family  emigrated  to  the  United States  in  1913.   They  arrived  as
immigrants at  Ellis Island and from there they crossed the country to Portland,  Oregon.  His father's death,  a few
months later, led Rothko to sever his ties with religion.

Markus had started school in the  United States in 1913,  quickly accelerating from third to fifth grade.  In June 1921,
he completed  the secondary level,  with  honors,  at the age of  seventeen.  Rothko received a  scholarship to Yale.  At
the end of his freshman year in 1922,  the scholarship was not renewed,  and he worked as a waiter and delivery boy to
support his  studies.  While  visiting  a friend at the  Art Students  League of  New York,  he saw  students  sketching a
model.  According to  Rothko,  this  was the  beginning  of his  life as  an artist.  He later  enrolled in the  Parsons The
New School for Design.

In 1936,  Rothko began  writing a book,  never  completed,  about  similarities  in the  art of  children   and the work of
modern  painters.  According  to Rothko,  the work of modernists,  influenced by  primitive art,  could be compared to
that of children in that "child art transforms itself into primitivism,  which is only the child producing a mimicry of
himself."  In this manuscript, he observed that "the fact that one usually begins with drawing is already academic. We
start with color."  Rothko was using  fields of color in his  aquarelles and city scenes.  His style was  already evolving
in the direction of his renowned later works.

Rothko's work later  matured from  representation and  mythological  subjects into  rectangular fields of color and
light, culminating in his final works for the Rothko Chapel. Between his early style of primitivist and playful urban
scenes,  and  his  later  style  of  transcendent  color  fields,  was a  long  period  of  transition.  This  development  was
marked by two important events in his life:  the onset of World War II,  and his reading of Friedrich Nietzsche.  wikipedia

With paintings such as Violet, Black, Orange, Yellow on White and Red,  Rothko arrived at his mature idiom.  For the
next 20 years he would explore the expressive potential of stacked rectangular fields of luminous colors. Like other
New York  School artists,  Rothko  used  abstract  means  to express  universal  human emotions,  earnestly striving to
create an art of awe-inspiring intensity for a secular world.

In  order  to  explain  the  power  of  his  canvases,   some  art  historians  have  cited  their  compositional  similarity  to
Romantic landscape painting and  Christian altar decoration.  For Anna Chave,  mature paintings such as Violet, Black,
Orange,  Yellow  on  White  and  Red  metaphorically  encompass  the  cycle  of  life  from  cradle  to grave,  in  part  by
harboring an  oblique reference to both  adorations and entombments.  The stacked rectangles may be read vertically
as an abstracted  Virgin bisected by horizontal divisions that indicate the supine Christ.  It is clear that Rothko hoped
to harness  the grandeur of  religious  painting.  The principles of  frontality and  iconic imagery  in his mature works
are common to traditional altarpieces,  and both formats have similar  dimensions and proportions. Often larger than
a   human   being,    Rothko’s  canvases   inspire   the   kind   of   wonder  and   reverence   traditionally   associated   with
monumental religious or landscape painting.

It was Rothko’s  euphoric  veils of  diaphanous  pure color  that led  critics to  praise him as a  sensualist  and a colorist,
which pained him  because he believed  that his champions  had lost sight of his serious intentions.  For him the canvases
enacted a violent  battle of opposites — vertical versus  horizontal,  hot color  versus cold — invoking the  existential
conflicts of  modernity.  The Black Paintings,  begun in the  year before  the artist’s  suicide,  confirm  Rothko’s  belief
that his work encompassed tragedy.  The desolation of  canvases such as Black on Grey,  drained of color and choked by
a white border — rather than suggesting the free-floating forms or veiled layers of his earlier work—indicate that,
as Rothko asserted, his paintings are about death. Jennifer Blessing on www.gughenheim.org

The Case for Mark Rothko video by The Art Assignment on YouTube
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