3. Early work Street Scene (c. 1937) Entrance to Subway [Subway Scene] (1938) In this early Rothko works, what sorts of themes does he seem to be working through? What dominates the composition in each of these works? Why do you think so? Do these works have a sense of expression and observation?
4. Sacrifice of Iphigenia (1942) In what ways does this work by Rothko show similarities to the early works that Pollock was doing (for example in She Wolf or Moon Woman ) around the same time period? Why do you think that these artists were exploring symbolism within their work? What does it maybe tell you about America of this era?
5. Sea Fantasy (1946) Untitled (1945-1946) What other Ab Ex artist’swork have we seen before that looks similar to this? What artistic influences do you see coming through in these works?
6. No. 9 [Multiform] (1948) No. 8 [Multiform] (1949) Like Pollock, around 1947 Rothko starts to experiment with a new style of work, one where he becomes increasingly interested in form and colour rather than representational objects.
9. Light Red Over Black (1957) Oil on canvas 230 x 152 x 3.8 cm “ The elimination of all obstacles between the painter and the idea and between the idea and the observer.” – Mark Rothko What sort of obstacles do you think Rothko is referring to? What ideas do you think Rothko is working towards? How might this affect the observer? Why do you think so?
10. My interest is only in expressing human emotions –tragedy, ecstasy, doom, and so on. The fact that a lot of people break down and cry when confronted with my pictures shows that I can communicate those basic human emotions… The people who weep before my pictures are having the same religious experience I had when I painted them. In Rothko’s words:
11. Seagram Murals Untitled [Seagram Mural], c. 1958 Seagram Murals at the Tate Modern In what way do the Seagram Murals show a stylistic shift/break away from Rothko’s previous works? Why do you think this was? How was Rothko working to effect the viewing audience, especially considering the original setting they were commissioned for?
12. Rothko’s later years and the Rothko Chapel Untitled [Black with White] (1963) Untitled (1968) Interior, the Rothko Chapel North view, including the apse triptych at far right Houston, Texas Psychologically, Rothko takes a turn from anything that we have seen in his work so far. What indicates this to you in regards to the style his later works take on? Justify your answers referencing earlier works.
13. Last thoughts… Rothko's reading of Nietzsche, the nineteenth-century German philosopher, suggests that his work could represent the binary opposition between a rational or abstract element versus an emotional, primal, or tragic one (referring to Nietzsche's discussion of the polarity between an Apollonian and a Dionysian principle). Certain qualities such as radiance or the duality of light and dark have a long history of symbolic meaning in Western culture from which Rothko clearly drew. An impression of vast space can be said to represent the historical concept of the "sublime," a quasi-religious experience of limitless immensity in nature. Conversely, these canvases also produce an environment of their own, and installations of Rothko's work create the sensation of a sacrosanct place. - National Gallery of Art, Washington, DC What are your thoughts on this quote and do you think that Rothko’s work has the power to take people to ‘spiritual’ place? Untitled, 1969,
15. Onement, I . 1948. Oil on canvas and oil on masking tape on canvas, 69.2 x 41.2 cm. Newman said of his work: They are [each] specific and separate embodiments of feeling, to be experienced. In what ways is this painting different from a Mark Rothko? In what ways is it the same?
16. Eve , 1950, Oil on canvas 238 x 172 x 5 cm Adam, 1951-2, Oil on canvas 242 x 202 cm Newman spoke of his paintings having a personified quality that a viewer would encounter and engage with. Discuss what you have seen in Newman’s work so far with specific reference to colour, texture and scale.
17. Who's Afraid of Red, Yellow, and Blue? , 1966 75 X 48 inches Oil on Canvas Piet Mondrian, Composition in Red, Blue, and Yellow. Newman had made this work in answer to Mondrian’s rigid aesthetic and the idea that primary colours were paramount to abstraction. He felt that he “ was now in confrontation with the dogma that colour must be reduced to the primaries…and to make the colours expressive rather than didactic.” What does Newman mean?
18. Voice of Fire , 1967, acrylic on canvas 543 x 243cm In 1990 the Canadian government bought this painting for $1.8 million dollars (roughly $5 million to today’s standards). The purchase caused a lot of controversy amongst people because essentially the work consists of three vertical lines. What are your thoughts on the price of art? The Price of Modern Art
19. Vir Heroicus Sublimis , 1950-51, oil on canvas 242.2 x 541.7cm Consider the date of the work and the title, also consider what you know about Newman, about Ab Ex and even what you know about the media being used. What do you think that Newman was trying to achieve with this work? Justify your answer.
20. The Broken Obelisk (1963-9), situated in a reflecting pool opposite The Rothko Chapel, has been called by some art critics “the greatest American sculpture of the twentieth century. How might you interpret the use of the pyramid and the obelisk? What meanings are attached to these items? What meaning does this give the work in regards to Newman’s aesthetic/philosophy?
21. Stations of the Cross, 14 works, 1958-66 This series was completed in the years before Newman’s death (1970) and was begun short after a serious heart attack in 1957, it is considered his greatest masterpiece. The works are meant to encompass one moment rather than 14 separate ones. What do you think this work is meant to symbolise? Why do you think so? “ I tried to project something that I felt was very real in relation to the Passion” - Barnett Newman
22. First Station Third Station Twelfth Station Consider what we have just discussed, in what ways does it seem that Newman has encapsulated the ideas that we have discussed in these works? Do you think that Newman’s work has the same impact that Rothko’s does? Justify your answer.