Collection 1940s–1970s

Mark Rothko. No. 10. 1950 437

Oil on canvas, 7' 6 3/8" x 57 1/8" (229.6 x 145.1 cm). Gift of Philip Johnson. © 1998 Kate Rothko Prizel & Christopher Rothko / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York

The artist's son, Christopher Rothko: I really do see space as the defining element in my father's classic abstractions. My father frames the work, he controls the action, he basically sets the stage via the forms and via the space.

You have to look really hard for a true rectangle. They're always rounded, softened, cut off suggestions of rectangles. And I think in doing that, he is always emphasizing the humanness of the painting. This is no machine-age painting. This is painted by a real painter, really by hand and if the artist sort of dreams a rectangle that isn't really a rectangle, that's what it's about.

I think it's in those transition points between the rectangles where you have the sort of feathery end of one rectangle, and the feathery beginnings of another, and juxtaposed with the background color. That's where the real electricity is.

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