Entrance to Subway

Mark Rothko, Entrance to Subway [Subway Scene], 1938

As a part of Rothko's "Subway Series," Entrance to Subway depicts a lonely New York subway station, quite characteristic of art made during the Great Depression.

The 1930s, such a gloomy era for many Americans, produced very dark themed artwork. It is apparent that Rothko responded to this through the progression of his pieces. Entrance to Subway marks the beginning of Rothko's exploration into darker themes. His later work evolved into simple yet extraordinary existentialist paintings characterized by dark colors and softly blended lines between basic blocks of color. 

The people painted in Entrance to Subway are composed of undefined shapes, allowing the viewer to create their own meaning to the work. Rothko's lack of definition adds to the depressed and isolated mood of the painting. In addition, the use of dark, muted colors also helps to cultivate the desolation he wanted to portray.

Another way to view the situation presented in Rothko's work is to interpret the people walking down the stairs as abandoning the positive ideologies that were existent pre-1930s, while the people standing in the back of the subway station appear alienated from their surroundings.
  • 7:00 AM

Black in Deep Red

Mark Rothko, Black in Deep Red, 1957
At first sight, I did not understand Mark Rothko’s work. His paintings confused me. I knew there was a meaning to them, but I couldn’t quite dig deep enough to understand his intentions. Now, looking at Rothko’s Black in Deep Red painted in 1957, I see movement. The shades of red seem to flow together, and the black abruptly stands out. Vibrant red bordering the bottom box as the stark black blends into the box brings the colors to life with vibrant energy. The red background does not appear red at all, but instead looks like a shade of brown. Mark Rothko had personal struggles in life that ultimately lead to his suicide in 1970. His earlier works of bright oranges and yellows reflect his happier years, while his paintings like Black in Deep Red indicate his shift into his state of depression. The black seems to almost “swallow the red” as stated in John Logan’s Red.

Aside from his colors, Rothko creates a sense of perfectly unsymmetrical symmetry by painting three uneven boxes of different colors that seem to flow together. His paintings seem to throb and flow together with drama. The edges are not straight but instead, fuse together to create a seamless transition. Looking at Black in Deep Red, the viewer can either see three unbalanced rectangles with different shades of red, or they can look at his paintings and understand the movement and dimension incorporated with Rothko’s personal story. Rothko’s painting combines order with chaos with his color choices and flow of the boxes. Whether one understands Rothko’s work or not, there is no denying the incredible thought he put into every stroke and every color on his canvas.

  • 7:00 AM

Red on Maroon

Mark Rothko, Red on Maroon, 1959

There are plenty of Mark Rothko’s pieces that I enjoy looking at, but there is one that made me feel the emotion that Rothko hoped his audience would feel. Red on Maroon, one of the murals originally destined for the Seagram building, doesn’t fit in a restaurant. I would honestly lose my appetite eating a fancy feel across from it.

Red is a warm color; it makes one think of warm things, often bringing comfort. On the contrary, when I see this painting under the dim lights of the Tate Gallery, I think back to my experiences in Poland this past summer. The red square seems to glow like the fires in the ovens in which Jews burned. The red could also symbolize the blood of the Jews or the vivid color surrounding the Nazi swastika on the flag. All of these images evoke the same gut-wrenching feeling. Rothko, a Jew, immigrated to America at a young age. His hometown in Russia once had a lively Jewish culture, but the Nazis eradicated the Jews of Latvia. In his Power of Art, Simon Schama said that Rothko asked a German to build a memorial for the Holocaust and in return he would give him a painting for free, but the German turned this offer down. Rothko obviously felt the pain of his people and wanted to use his work to bring light to the horrible events that took place in Europe during WWII.

Rothko experienced anti-Semitism first-hand at Yale University. Yale had a cap on how many Jews it would accept. Furthermore, many clubs and fraternities did not accept Jews. Rothko eventually dropped out of Yale and feeling unwelcome. Rothko expresses this feeling unwelcome in many of his paintings. In this painting, I imagine Rothko showing how Jews were unwelcome in Germany and throughout the world. Even today, Jews throughout the world experience Anti-Semitism just like Rothko did.

In the play Red, Rothko doesn’t want the black to swallow all of the red. Despite the fact that this painting is only red, I feel that the black is looming over the painting because of the raw emotions felt when looking at it. Similarly, Rothko always felt the black looming over him, until it swallowed him up in 1970.

  • 7:00 AM

Untitled (Black, Red over Black on Red)

Rothko, Untitled (Black, Red over Black on Red), 1964

My first time experiencing a Rothko painting was not in a book or on a website. I had the honor of seeing one in person at the Pompidou Center in Paris.

I took many photos when I visited this museum, but I took pictures for two reasons: I recognized the piece of art or artist, or because I thought the piece of art was ridiculous. Untitled (Black, Red over Black on Red) currently exists as a blurry picture on my phone, not because I thought the painting was aesthetically pleasing, but because I partially knew these kinds of paintings were well-known, but also because I thought it was one of the painters who painted aimlessly.

After reading both a play and watching a film about Rothko and his paintings, I now recognize Rothko not as a wannabe painter, but as an artistically talented person. Among Rothko’s numerous paintings, shades of red are quite commonly seen. Untitled (Black, Red over Black on Red) serves as one of Rothko’s darker paintings, painted just six years before he committed suicide. At first glance, the lighter shade of red borders a black rectangle and a slightly darker shade of red. But, as you stare into the painting, the rectangles seem to float and move around the painting. One of Rothko's unique and widely known components of his paintings, is that he does not just rigidly paint lines, he artistically blends the colors together into a blur, creating a subtle change in various colors.

If I had the opportunity to go back to that museum, I would take another picture, but this time, it would be because I admire the painter and the painting. I would sit down in front of the painting and just look at it, and not just see colors, but what Rothko wanted to portray by the specific and strategic placement of the colors.

  • 7:00 AM

No. 36

Mark Rothko, No. 36, 1957

No. 36 (Black Stripe) by Mark Rothko, a portal of indulging reddish oranges overlain by midnight blue, epitomizes the beautiful abstraction of this twentieth century master's work. Rothko's legacy lies within his inner conflict and his relentless perfectionism. Though his craft changed the course of modern artistic expression, his discontent with himself and the world around him lead him to his eventual suicide. In his life, he served as a leader in the war against the human race's impulsive satisfaction with mediocrity. Along with the aforementioned war, Rothko was struggling with the impending commodity-centric nature of the future of modern art. In his career, he found himself stuck in the middle of this; as he strived to refine his craft (and furthermore his influence), it became necessary for him to make compromises in order to be able to have the platforms and resources be desired.

Though this opinion is likely to be heavily opposed, I see strong parallels between the creative mindset of Rothko with twenty-first century musician and designer, Kanye West. They both share unhindered ambition to change the course of innovation in their respective cultures. Like Rothko, West frequently expresses his frustration with the fleeting hunger for brilliance of society. Of all the similarities between these creative geniuses, I am most intrigued by their self-consuming craving for the fulfillment of their artistic vision.
  • 7:00 AM

Number 61

Mark Rothko, Number 61, 1951

“What do you see? What do you think? What do you feel?” While others in the room spouted out evolved and cultural analyses, the only thing I understood was rectangle. It is just a rectangle. What about this large rectangle should make me feel anything? How could these more seasoned Art History students look at this simple shape and have a profound realization? How is this mess of color any different than something I could paint in a half hour? After a documentary and two plays, I can finally say that I see something, I think something, and I feel something.

The soft maroon pulses in this work. It is more imperfect than any other form, and the most human. It is our fragility and our heart, dipping in shade from vibrant to dim, from bold to weak. Grey depression sets in from below, eating its way up to that humanness, but the blue encircles the red to protect it. The sky color in between does not breach the delicate edges of the burgundy, but, instead, seeps into the grey, eliminating it. This blue changes for each one of us. For some it is family, for others, an inspiring film. It is music, literature, or a sunny afternoon. The peace in the calm, reassuring blue takes away the darkness for every one of us. It protects our humanity. It keeps the world from turning us cold. In the battle of Number 61, this guardian of humanity is winning.

On that first day, I took Rothko too literally. I searched for shapes and story where there was none. When I found no definite forms, I gave up. I missed the point. This rectangle on the wall was not intended to tell me any particular story; it was intended to invoke something within me. Rothko painted it to drag up the darkest and lightest visions of humanity. Emotions are our humanness. Every person has felt enraged, lonely, miserable, elated, and peaceful at some time or another. It’s our shared experience of the world. Whether you’ve lived in the deepest slums of India, or emigrated from Russia at a young age, or grew up at the Barstow School, these feelings are something we all understand. That sets Rothko apart from a slob with a paintbrush. Each one of those striking rectangles, the soft lines, the dark heartbeat of the colors, inspires this in all of us. It makes us remember what is left when we close our eyes at night and are in the quiet of our heads and we just feel.
  • 7:00 AM

Black on Maroon

Rothko, Black on Maroon, 1958


Paintings are often appreciated as still, vivid representations of what an artist sees through their unique, perspective lenses. We judge artwork on its aesthetic values including clean lines, crisp edges, complementing colors, and a host of other factors. However, as one ventures deeper into modern genres of art, the “still” factor diminishes. When I first laid eyes on Mark Rothko’s infamous murals, known to pulsate and create inexplicable visual sensations, I did not see anything but blobs of color thrown onto a canvass. Though that could be credited to the fact I only looked at uploaded replicas, I still could not fathom a painting doing what Rothko’s were known to do.

Then, I came across this enigmatic combination of simplicity and disorder, or better known, Black on Maroon, 1958. I found myself in a deep gaze. I saw two columns of a light maroon enclosed by layers of black. I stared at the rough edges, only to find the columns beginning to slowly separate. The chaotic outlines force movement as my eyes fail to grasp a clear shape without any borders. The black filling in the middle grows, and the maroon towers shift away. I have never experienced a work of art like this.

Why does this imitation Rothko seem to provoke my visual sense unlike many of the others I went through? To be honest, I am not quite sure. It could be that I need to experience the murals themselves, in the conditions Rothko perpetrated for them. But, that still does not explain why I saw this mural burst with life through a screen that destroys the true essence of a work of art. Regardless, this painting stood out in a way where I began appreciating Rothko more than just an iconic figure. He was a visionary who created chaos in stillness, frustration from simplicity. This painting makes me understand where those claims came from. Now, I am not interested solely in the question why Black on Maroon, and presumably his other paintings, incites such sensations, but truthfully, how did he come to discover that?

  • 7:00 AM

Green and Tangerine on Red

Mark Rothko, Green and Tangerine on Red, 1956

Rothko's Green and Tangerine, painted in 1956, shares more similarities with his earlier post-war paintings. Earlier works contain light colors with few dark colors to provide balance. Rothko's later works, particularly those in the Rothko Chapel, are dark to the point of almost total blackness. This turn to darker paint may reflect Rothko's dissatisfaction with the world, which started shortly after the Second World War.

The Second World War's destructive impact influenced a new, more hopeless philosophy. This philosophy can trace its roots back to the thinking of Nietzsche and Kierkegaard. They believed that life had no inherent meaning and that it was the duty of individuals to prescribe meaning to existence.
  • 7:00 AM

Untitled, 1967

Mark Rothko, Untitled, 1967

I've waited a year to write about Rothko. But this has been, by far, one of the hardest blog posts to write.

First, there was the choosing of the painting. Of all Rothko's works, how can you pick just one? A few years back I followed "theDailyRothko" on Tumblr and, let me tell you- it's madness. I have over 200 Rothko's saved to my drafts folder. And after days and days of debate, I managed to narrow it down to three. One for the colour, another for the emotion and the third for it's pertinence to our class discussions of black and red. 

However, every time I began to write the words just wouldn't come. Not for lack of things to say, but for lack anything else to say. Every painting I picked simply said it all. The colors became catalysts that set off emotions that I could easily relate to class discussions. As is the nature of the game. But writing about art requires so much more than that. One must spend quality time with the work, really get to know it. It's not supposed to be so obvious. 

Therefore, I chose this one. Not for the color, emotion, pertinence -- but for its mystique.

A thin stroke of azure pulls the eye back, across the grassy, field-like region to a sky that's opaque and unforgiving. Blue bleeding from the edges of the beryl green expanse gives the illusion of a faint florescent glow somewhere in the great beyond. The feeling of a warm summer night, running in a field of freshly cut grass, nothing but moonlight radiating about you. It tempts you, pulls you in, only to be pushed away by the impenetrable murky green. Its strangeness is enticing, its lawlessness is enchanting. But, sooner or later, a thick fog of melancholy washes over you. You realize that summer is over, the nights are no longer warm, and the grass is teeming who knows what. 

From reminiscence to reality, Rothko's Untitled 1967, reveals both a seductiveness and soothing quality, never before seen in the color green. 
  • 7:00 AM

Four Darks in Red

Mark Rothko, Four Darks in Red, 1958

I’ll admit that I truly didn’t understand Mark Rothko and whatever he had been doing and why a painting of a colored square could cost millions and millions of dollars. I allowed myself to open a little shelf in my mind to the idea that maybe this is reasonable. What I came across was Existentialism. Rothko read many Existentialist papers, like those of Nietzsche (“God is dead” dude). The idea of Existentialism emphasizes an individual’s responsibility to shape his/her life in a world of nothingness. Sure, this can be an extremely depressing thought that human oblivion is inevitable, but it gave Rothko a chance at self-expression. He considered himself to be a “human being” who wasn’t caught up in society’s façade of wealth and superficial conversation. He sought for existence and hoped his audience would interpret his art in a way that never needed to be explained or critiqued by others.

Good thing I’m part of the audience because now I can try and interpret Rothko’s Four Darks in Red. The piece can easily be associated with the quote from John Logan’s Red, “One day the black will swallow the red,” Red being life and black being death. That’s a dark and gloomy Existentialist thought. I look at the painting and it reminds me of something all women go through, every month actually. The strokes of red lash around the darker toned shapes until it reaches the thick blackness. Once a month I feel like this and it feels like death itself. I’m happy and then all of a sudden I’m sobbing thinking the world doesn’t matter.

The large black shape is this nothingness. Tears drip from my face and I wonder what the point in life is after Shonda Rhimes kills, yet again, one of my favorite characters on Grey’s Anatomy. Pain of the deep reds mimic the emotional drainage I make up in my head. Next thing I know I am snapping at my mom about the tiny coffee stain on my shirt and how it ruined my whole outfit in which I exaggerate to ruining my whole life. Just as it ends, I await for the next cycle, Much like life and death. Much like Four Darks in Red. The painting seems to shift from shade to shade, being linked by a bright red that brings everything together.

This piece of artwork pulsates, explodes and then disappears as my eyes move around it. I understand Mark Rothko’s Four Darks in Red to be a cycle, whether it is the female cycle or the cycle of life, it continues.
  • 7:00 AM

Untitled, 1959

Mark Rothko, Untitled, 1959

Red veins fill everything. They fill the hands that write this post. On the surface, they appear a deep ocean blue, similar to the skin of a cadaver. The blue veins pass de-oxygenated blood through the body, back to the heart and lungs. The heart pumps the “blue” blood into the lungs, which then rejuvenate the blood, diffusing rich oxygen into the disc-shaped cells.

Rothko’s Untitled, 1959, pictures the seemingly-never-ending cycle of blood from blue to red, oxygenated to deoxygenated. Allow me to blow your mind with science. The average person lives 27,375 days and a blood cell lasts 120 days. Say a person goes through one blood cell at a time. They would go through 228 red blood cells in their life. Oh that’s not so much you think but only WISH that was it. The body contains 20-30 trillion red blood cells at any one time. That’s right, trillion with a T. In one lifetime, 5.7 quadrillion discs flow through the miles of veins, arteries, and capillaries, almost like bringing life-extending data on a CD to each individual cell. But that all has to come to a close in due time.

Rothko reminds us that while the cycle repeats for seemingly forever and a day, it eventually breaks off to complete it in a muddy burgundy. We enter into the world out of the void and live in the crimson red of oxygen, constantly exhausting it yet not appreciating the magnitude of work our body is capable of. We live unappreciative of everything that happens in our favor, ultimately perceiving such as we fade into the grey.
  • 7:00 AM

No. 64

Mark Rothko, No. 64, 1957

Marcus Rothkowitz, born in 1903 in modern day Latvia, moved with his family to the United States in 1913. He continued practicing Yiddish, Hebrew, and other Jewish customs in a neighborhood known as Little Russia. When he decided to pursue painting as a career he changed his name to his famously recognized name today, Mark Rothko, to escape being denied success on account of his religion. After failing to echo the realism of the artists in his time, he began to change his style to that of something more abstract. This sudden change in style occurred in the early 1940s, possibly influenced by the events in Nazi Germany. Through the 1950s the Holocaust references grew further, Rothko even denied German museums the ability to display his paintings because of their role.

The colors in Rothko's No. 64 reflect those of the Nazis. Not only do they symbolize Nazi Germany's flag and swastika but the extensive amount of blood, death, and decay in the time period. The Ochre in the center of the painting has a little life within it. It could even be assumed that the Ochre symbolizes Rothko, safe from the turmoil in his new home of the United States. Even though detached from the events overseas, he still feels a part of it and its' destruction within him. His life sits atop the deaths of others who could not be saved. The black has inconsistencies of red and gray mixed within it, like smoke rising from a chimney.The undefined color change highlights the indistinguishable difference in that of life and death.

This summer I traveled through Eastern Europe, specifically Germany, Poland, and Prague. I learned extensive amounts and also saw first hand the remains and evidence. Every time I hear something of relation to the Holocaust now, I flash back to the moments I stood in the very place millions of people died. Rothko could not witness the occurrences, and unlike myself, did not experience the camps. Instead Rothko painted his feelings. 

  • 7:00 AM

The Stolen Kiss

Jean Honore-Fragonard, The Stolen Kiss, 1788


Jean Honore-Fragonard’s The Stolen Kiss is the perfect addition to any collection. Completed in 1788, this work has a more realistic subject than previous pieces. The painting catches any eye with pastel colors on bottom contrasting with darker colors on top. The illuminated woman draws eyes to the center of the photo where one sees a flirtatious scene taking place. The young woman is seen kissing a young man while other women appear to play cards in the other room. The woman leans into the young man while he grasps her hand, but she looks back towards the doorway. She also holds onto her wrap, which sits about a side-table with an open drawer where ribbons pouring out of. Here, Fragonard hints at their sexual relationship. The curtains seem to engulf the young lovers in darkness. The shawl on the table hints to her needing to get dressed after sleeping with the young man. The painting showcases a snapshot of an intimate moment between the two lovers before they part. This promiscuous scene is similar to many of Fragonard’s paintings.

Technically, the painting is amazing. Fragonard's intricate details makes the painting look close to a photograph. Fragonard, a fan of Dutch artists such as Rubens and Hals, uses blended brushstrokes and little details similar to the Dutch. The young woman’s dress showcases Fragonard’s painting skills. The dress has amazing texture with wrinkles and pleats. The dress hints to the woman’s extreme riches, as does her furniture. The carpet, side-table, and curtains further showcase Fragonard’s technical abilities.

Why wouldn’t you want this beautiful piece in your library or above your mantel? Not only does this piece make a statement, it then starts a conversation. Every man should have this frivolous Fragonard as a great addition to any collection. The Stolen Kiss perfectly captures a moment of passion between two young lovers.

Editor's Note: The authors were asked to write sales copy for Edme-François Gersaint, the prominent rococo art dealer who offered a printed catalog of available works.
  • 10:45 AM

White Cloud Over Purple

Mark Rothko, White Cloud Over Purple, 1957

I stand stranded on a canvas            cold core churning, sides aglow
overhead the white sky dances        while a redness roils below
I had spent ten lifetimes fighting        for the love of rugged eyes
and the mouths that spouted        —purple!        ‘twas my name, as I surmised.

I hung fast within the vastness, knowing nowhere could surpass
This sweet world where walls were windows, and truth trembled through the glass.
But my skin grew thin from coveting a fate I failed to see;
Though surrounded by my siblings, I knew not what lived in me.
Then, one sorry Sunday morning, when no painted faces paid,
And the house of hues grew humble, and no footsteps ricocheted
Off the dusty marble sea        then I languished        then I screamed:

“Who is purple? What am I? Have I distilled my silhouette
for the irises of pupils who look through me and forget?
What a scornful predilection! Can’t I catch a single hint
of my bare reflection, unadorned by someone else’s tint?”

I stood stranded on a canvas            hot core burning, sides aglow
when I felt the white sky dancing        as the redness roiled below
so I spun about in wonder            I was them, and they were me 
tugging one way, then the other        in discordant harmony.
  • 7:00 AM