Joy, despair, ecstasy, tragedy: these are some of the themes that Mark Rothko sought to express in his luminous art. Rothko is renowned for his towering abstract paintings on canvas, but few people know that he also created more than 1,000 paintings on paper over the course of his career. He viewed these as finished paintings in their own right—not simply preliminary studies intended for his own eyes. These remarkable works challenge our expectations about what “counts” as painting, as well as popular ideas about Rothko and his career.
This exhibition brings together more than 100 of Rothko’s most compelling paintings on paper, many on view for the first time. They range from early figurative subjects and surrealist works to the soft-edged rectangular fields, often realized at monumental scale, for which Rothko is best known. Together, these radiant, rarely displayed paintings transform our understanding of one of the preeminent artists of the 20th century.