By the early 1960s, Rothko was widely regarded as one of America’s leading painters. Speaking of the style he had honed over the past two decades, he remarked: “This kind of design may look simple, but it usually takes me many hours to get the proportions and colors just right. Everything has to lock together.” This untitled painting on paper—with its incendiary orange ground supporting a lighter, yellow-orange rectangle and a fiery red rectangle—attests to his sophisticated understanding of color and composition. The bright, warm palette stands as evidence that he continued to swing back-and-forth from cool to warm tones. Many have misinterpreted Rothko’s dark paintings as stemming from his worsening depression, and his brilliantly colored paintings as joyous expressions. In fact, some of the last compositions the artist painted featured bright, warm colors.
Additional text from In The Studio: Postwar Abstract Painting online course, Coursera, 2017