About This Artwork

Mark Rothko (Marcus Rothkowitz)
American, born Russia (Latvia), 1903–1970

Untitled (Purple, White, and Red), 1953

Oil on canvas
197.5 x 207.7 cm (77 3/4 x 81 3/4 in.), unframed
Not inscribed on recto; signed and dated: verso: "Mark Rothko / 1953" (upper left)

Gift of Sigmund E. Edelstone, 1983.509

© 1998 Kate Rothko Prizel & Christopher Rothko / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York

Untitled (Purple, White, and Red) follows the characteristic format of Mark Rothko’s mature work, in which stacked rectangles of color appear to float within the boundaries of the canvas. By directly staining the canvas with many thin washes of pigment and paying particular attention to the edges where the fields interact, he achieved the effect of light radiating from the image itself. This technique suited Rothko’s metaphysical aims: to offer painting as a doorway into purely spiritual realms, making it as immaterial and evocative as music, and to directly communicate the most essential, raw forms of human emotion.

Exhibition, Publication and Ownership Histories

Exhibition History

Venice, Museo d’Arte Moderna Ca’Pesaro, “Mark Rothko,” June 21–October 15, 1970, cat. 6 (color ill.), as “Purple, White and Red.”

New York, Marlborough Gallery, “Mark Rothko Paintings: 1947–1970,” November 13–December 5, 1970, no cat.

Washington, D. C., National Gallery of Art, “Mark Rothko,” May 3–August 16, 1998, cat. by Jeffrey Weiss et al.; traveled to New York, Whitney Museum of American Art, September 10–November 29, 1998, and Musée d’Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris, January 8–April 18, 1999 (Washington, D. C. and New York only), cat. 62 (color ill.).

Publication History

“Artforum” 9, 3 (November 1970), back cover (color ill.).

“The Art Institute of Chicago Annual Report, 1983–84” (Art Institute of Chicago, 1984), pp. 7, 23, 53, as “Purple, White and Red.”

“Noteworthy Acquisitions of 1983–84,” in “A Supplement to the 1983–84 Annual Report of the Art Institute of Chicago” (Art Institute of Chicago, 1984), p. 13 (color ill.), as “Purple, White and Red.”

James N. Wood and Katharine C. Lee, “Master Paintings in the Art Institute of Chicago” (Art Institute of Chicago/New York Graphic Society Books and Little, Brown and Company, 1988), p. 154 (color ill.), as “Purple, White and Red”; 2nd ed., James N. Wood (Art Institute of Chicago/Hudson Hills Press, 1999), p. 150 (color ill.).

Nobuyuki Hiromoto, “Mark Rothko,” Contemporary Great Masters 4 (Kodansha, 1993), pl. 23 (color ill.), as “Purple, White and Red.”

James N. Wood, “Treasures of 19th- and 20th-Century Painting: The Art Institute of Chicago (Abbeville Press, 1993), p. 303 (color ill.), as “Purple, White and Red.”

Steven Johnson, “Rothko Chapel and Rothko’s Chapel,” “Perspectives of New Music” 32, 2 (Summer 1994), pp. 10 (ill.), 30, as “Purple, White and Red.”

David Anfam, “Mark Rothko, The Works on Canvas: A Catalogue Raisonné” (National Gallery of Art/Yale University Press, 1998), cat. 497 (color ill.).

James N. Wood and Debra N. Mancoff, “Treasures from the Art Institute of Chicago” (Art Institute of Chicago/Hudson Hills Press, 2000), p. 294 (color ill.).

Ownership History

Estate of the artist, 1970; sold, Marlborough A. G., Liechtenstein/Marlborough Gallery, New York, to Sigmund E. Edelstone, Chicago, 1970; partially given to the Art Institute, 1983; remaining percentage bequeathed to the Art Institute, 1984.

Interpretive Resources

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