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Seattle Art Museum (SAM)


Photo: Spike Mafford / Zocalo Studios. Courtesy of the Friday Foundation


ca. 1945

Mark Rothko

American, 1903-1970

Painted during the last year of World War II, Mark Rothko’s Untitled is an example of a pivotal moment in the artist’s career. Bearing stylistic connections to his surrealist contemporaries, many of whom emigrated to New York from war-torn Europe, Untitled is divided into three horizontal bands—a compositional device that evokes geological, subterranean strata—and overlaid with glyph-like biomorphic forms. It was perhaps Rothko’s interest in Greek art and mythology that informed the visual structure of this early painting (most notably the frieze-like division of the visual plane). This compositional stacking, together with the painting’s soft and luminous paint application, positions Untitled as a predecessor to the celebrated ethereal abstractions of stacked fields of color Rothko would begin in the late 1940s.
Oil on canvas
22 1/2 × 30 3/8 in. (57.1 × 77 cm)
Gift of the Friday Foundation in honor of Richard E. Lang and Jane Lang Davis
Provenance: The artist; [Betty Parsons Gallery, New York]; [Rose Fried Gallery, New York]; Dr. and Mrs. Joseph M. Krimsley, New York; Mrs. Joseph M. Krimsley, New York; [Christie’s New York, Contemporary Art, Nov. 12, 1980, sale no. 5019, lot no. 12]; acquired from the above by Jane and Richard E. Lang, Seattle, 1980; Friday Foundation, Seattle, 2018; Seattle Art Museum, 2020
Photo: Spike Mafford / Zocalo Studios. Courtesy of the Friday Foundation
Now on view at the Seattle Art Museum


Exhibition HistoryNew York, New York, Betty Parsons Gallery, Mark Rothko, Mar. 3 - 22, 1947.

New Directions in American Painting, organized by the Poses Institute of Fine Arts, Brandeis University, Waltham, Massachusetts (Utica, New York, Munson-Williams-Proctor Arts Institute Museum of Art, Dec. 1, 1963 - Jan. 5, 1964; New Orleans, Louisiana, Isaac Delgado Museum of Art, Feb. 7 - Mar. 8, 1964; Atlanta, Georgia, Atlanta Art Association, Mar. 18 - Apr. 22, 1964; Louisville, Kentucky, J. B. Speed Art Museum, May 4 - June 7, 1964; Bloomington, Indiana, Art Museum, Indiana University, June 22 - Sept. 20, 1964; St. Louis, Missouri, Washington University, Oct. 5 - 30, 1964; Detroit, Michigan, Detroit Institute of Arts, Nov. 10 - Dec. 6, 1964). Cat. no. 48 (as Untitled, ca. 1946).

Seattle, Washington, Seattle Art Museum, The Richard and Jane Lang Collection, Feb. 2 - Apr. 1, 1984. Cat. no. 39, p. 54, reproduced.

Seattle, Washington, Seattle Art Museum, Seattle Collects Paintings: Works in Private Collections, May 22 - Sept. 7, 1997. No cat. no.

Seattle, Washington, Seattle Art Museum, SAM at 75: Building a Collection for Seattle, May 5 - Sept. 9, 2007.
Published ReferencesA Community of Collectors: 75th Anniversary Gifts to the Seattle Art Museum. Seattle: Seattle Art Museum and University of Washington Press, 2008.

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