Although the American artist Mark Rothko always claimed not to be an abstract painter, his wall-size paintings certainly look like abstract works. Especially his post-war compositions are dominated by roughly rectangular shapes of certain colour painted on a contrasting base, essentially depicting nothing else. The exhibition in the Gemeentemuseum in The Hague, The Netherlands, brings together a number of works, mostly on loan from the National Gallery of Art in Washington – an excellent opportunity to see some Rothko on this side of the Atlantic. I have always been somewhat skeptical about this form of expression – perhaps I am not modern enough -, yet I have to admit that I came away impressed. The Rothko paintings invite you to walk from a distance slowly towards the canvas, which creates the experience as if you are actually walking straight into the painting.
Yet, the paintings are best viewed from a distance: to the left here, I show one of the paintings as a whole, as well as a close-up of the centre part (“untitled”, 1948). It is amazing how it takes a much smoother shape from further away
Others know much more about Rothko than I do, so I limit myself to posting a couple of photos from the paintings, taken in the museum. Poor quality, and in any case there is no way you can catch the impression of standing in front of a Rothko-work in a photo, but it gives you an idea, at least.
The other good thing about this type of exhibitions is that they also contain some early works, works I would never have identified as a Rothko, but are quite nice, nevertheless. I include three of those here, too. If you haven’t been yet, go and see the exhibition, even if you are initially as skeptical as I was…
Click on the gallery below, and you’ll see the full paintings.