MARK ROTHKO | Untitled (Brown and Black)



Untitled (Brown and Black)
acrylic on paper mounted to board
33¼ by 25¾ in. 84.5 by 65.4 cm.
Executed in 1968.

Price Available Upon Request

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The artist (estate no. 1220.68)
Marlborough Gallery, Inc., New York
Pace Gallery, New York
Manny Silverman Gallery, Los Angeles
Private Collection, Santa Barbara (acquired from the above)
Sotheby's, London, June 22, 2005, lot 21 (consigned by the above)
Private Collection, Hong Kong (acquired from the above sale)
Private Collection, New York (acquired from the above)
Sotheby’s, New York, November 9, 2010, lot 34 (consigned by the above)
Private Collection, Mexico (acquired from the above)
Acquired by the present owner from the above

“No longer is his art earthbound, sensual, corporeal. He had attained a harmony, an equilibrium, a wholeness, in the Jungian sense, that enabled him to express universal truths in his breakthrough works, fusing the conscious and the unconscious, the finite and the infinite, the equivocal and the unequivocal, the sensuous and the spiritual” (Diane Waldman in: Exh. Cat., New York, The Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, Mark Rothko, 1903-1970: A Retrospective, 1978, p. 69)

Painted in 1968, Untitled (Brown and Black) is a brilliant example of Mark Rothko’s mature output through his career-long investigation into exploring color fields. Formed of a tri-partite arrangement of earthy brown pigment bisected by a central segment of velvety blackness, Untitled (Brown and Black) encourages a sensation of meditative calm through its subtle merging of planes of somber color. The unpainted border around the edge of the composition, emphasized by the presence of feathered brushstrokes, enforces the rich tonal depth. The overall effect is one of reverential calm and repose. Rothko had been moving towards the deployment of steadily darker hues throughout the 1960s, but 1968 proved to be a turning point in both personal and aesthetic terms. Following instructions from his doctors to rest in order to aid recuperation from illness, the artist began working on a smaller scale. The result was a superb group of works of which Untitled (Brown and Black) is a part of. These works condense the essence of Rothko’s mature creative praxis into a more concentrated, yet equally powerful, space.

Despite the personal difficulties Rothko experienced during this year, there is a very clear sense of a new beginning in these late works. Forced to experiment in smaller dimensions through a self-imposed pared down vocabulary, the use of paper brought new impetus to Rothko’s oeuvre. Working with paper brought forth works that emanated a radiance of hue that resulted from light reflecting off the white paper beneath semi-translucent pigment, an effect that the artist could not achieve directly on his unprimed canvases, which tended to absorb rather than reflect light. Rothko considered black, in particular, to be a crucial member of the chromatic spectrum as opposed to representing an ‘absence’ of color. Although Rothko had been experimenting with a more somber palette throughout the 1960s, these works reached their spectacular apex in the last years of his life, following Dominique de Menil’s commission for the Chapel at the University of St. Thomas, Houston, Texas. The commission encouraged the artist in his change of creative mood to increasingly make use of the dark hues. Rothko’s paintings and works on paper of the late 1960s, including Untitled (Black and Brown), have a greater sense of profundity and a powerful emotional depth that had not always existed within his earlier, colorful, works. Untitled (Black and Brown) and other similarly hued works from this period can be viewed, in many respects, as the culmination of the creative discoveries that resulted from the Chapel.

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