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The Rothko Book Excerpt Sheet -Answer sheet

  1. What did dimness do in the painting?
    Answer: The dimness created drama.
    Possible Students Answers could include:
      The faded color looked soft and dark - moody.
      The dimness made and dark color made me think the artist was sad.

    "…But even with the new sciences, Rothko recognized it was still difficult to reconcile the subjective and objective comprehension of reality. (Bonnie Clearwater, The Rothko Book, page 77, paragraph 1.) … The representation of new pictorial space was not Rothko's ultimate goal. The space was essential to the drama he aimed to enact in his canvases. Bobbie Clearwater, the Rothko Book, page 77, paragraph 3.

  2. How was Rothko influenced by Matisse?
    Answer: He realized in looking at Matisse's The Red Studio that a painting could be a place which could saturate you.
    Possible Students Answers could include:
      He used deep color boldly similar to Matisse.
      He used large blocks of color and interesting placement of shapes like Matisse.

    "…It is possible that the spatial qualities of Rothko's colours for his paintings in the 1950 exhibition at Parsons Gallery were influenced by Matisse's paintings, particularly The Red Studio 1911 (fig.65). Rothko recalled standing in front of this painting almost every day for months following its acquisition by The Museum of Modern Art in 1949. As he remarked, when you looked at this painting 'you became that color, you became totally saturated with it as if it were music'. Bernice Rose has even identified Rothko's large, red multiform (fig.66) made the year the museum acquired The Red Studio as a variation on Matisse's painting.' Although the red field is flat and fairly uniform in Matisse's painting, the viewer can comprehend the composition as a room due to the schematic linear elements defining the objects in the studio. Rothko did not introduce drawing into his canvas; he used colour alone to envelop the viewer in its space." (Bonnie Clearwater, The Rothko Book, page 99, paragraph 1. Also note the two paintings for contrast and comparison: Henri Matisse, The Red Studio page 98 and Rothko's No. 21{Multiform/Untitled}

  3. How did Rothko make his painting his own place?
    Answer: He allowed his paintings to be a place where he could express what he was thinking rather than what he was seeing in art.
    Possible Students Answers could include:
      He did not let other people influence how he painted, or where he hung his work.
      He created work to make people feel and think not just a "pretty picture" to be hung in a fancy restaurant.

    'The most interesting painting is one that expresses more of what one thinks than of what one sees.' The advance in art, as Rothko saw it in the late 1940's while he was in the midst of his final transition to the classic image, would necessarily in the philosophical content .(Bonnie Clearwater, The Rothko Book, page 103, paragraph 1).

  4. What emotions did Rothko want the viewer to experience?
    Answer: Rothko wanted his viewers to experience 'the states of mind of the total man.'
    Possible Students Answers could include:
      Sadness, his paintings used deep muted colors.
      He mixed his colors and made them colors that people had to experience and feel like he did when he looked at Matisse's work - he did use colors that were easily identified.

    "…I use colors that have already been experienced through the light of day and through the states of mind of the total man. In other words my colors are not colors that are laboratory tools which are isolated from all accidentals or impurities so that they have a specified identity or purity. (Bonnie Clearwater, The Rothko Book, page 178, paragraph 6 and page 179, paragraph 1)

  5. What values did Rothko seem to uphold?
    Answer: He valued human needs that went beneath the surface survival needs. Students can recall the basic survival needs, air water, food, shelter and then the idea of psychological and emotional needs can be introduced.
    Possible Students Answers could include:
      Rothko seemed to believe in humanity and emotional and intellectual needs.
      Rothko seemed to believe that art was something created to fill a human need or desire.

    "…Rothko told Seitz that he wanted 'pure response in terms of human need. Does the painting satisfy some human need?..." (Bonnie Clearwater, The Rothko Book, page 112, paragraph 4.)