Our Studio Sunday this week focuses on Mark Rothko, one of the big names in American abstract expressionism in the mid 20th century. Rothko is known for his large monochromatic paintings, a couple of which are seen here.
The above photo is of Rothko’s studio on 69th street in New York, in 1964. The paintings pictured are a series of large-scale monochromatic murals that were commissioned for the Rothko Chapel. In his studio, Rothko wanted to get the configuration of the paintings exactly right, going so far as to build huge mock walls and pulley systems in order to adjust the height of the paintings and see them in an environment as close to the real Chapel as possible. As such, Rothko’s 69th street studio would have been quite large, with high ceilings to accommodate such large undertakings. At this point in his career Rothko was already fairly well established, so he would have been able to afford a very nice studio in an art-friendly district.
Though earlier, in the 1950’s, Rothko was known for his work in bright, warm colours like orange and red, by the time this photo was taken in the mid-sixties, he had began experimenting in more somber colours, like deep purples, grey tones and dark blues. The paintings pictured here, while apparently black, are in fact purple, and would eventually be displayed alongside black and maroon paintings of a similar scale in the Chapel.