About This Artwork

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

Number 19, 1949

Oil on canvas
172.8 x 101.8 cm (68 x 40 1/8 in.)
Not inscribed on recto; inscribed: verso: "Mark Rothko / 1949" (lower left in orange-red paint); "Top" (on upper strainer member in orange-red paint)

Anonymous gift, 1957.308

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

Like many of the New York School painters of the 1940s, Mark Rothko was largely influenced by Surrealism, creating allegorical abstractions depicting biomorphic and mythological forms. By 1947 he abandoned representational imagery entirely and began working with color, light, and space. Number 19 follows the characteristic format of his multiform paintings, in which loosely defined organic shapes hover over a thinly brushed background. Whereas color once assumed a supporting role in his compositions, by this period, color had become a defining force, thus marking the transition from Rothko’s early work to his mature, color-field paintings.

Exhibition, Publication and Ownership Histories

Exhibition History

New York, Whitney Museum of American Art, “Annual Exhibition of Contemporary American Painting,” December 16, 1949–February 5, 1950, cat. 117.

Urbana, College of Fine and Applied Arts, University of Illinois, “Exhibition of Contemporary American Painting,” March 4–April 15, 1951, p. 214, cat. 114, pl. 35 (ill.).

New York, Museum of Modern Art, “Mark Rothko,” January 18–March 12, 1961, cat. by Peter Selz, pp. 19 (ill.), 43, as “No. 19, 1948.”

Birmingham Museum of Art, “Tenth Anniversary Exhibition,” April 30–May 31, 1961, no cat.

Nagaoka, Japan, Niigata Prefectural Museum of Modern Art, “Masterworks of Modern Art from the Art Institute of Chicago,” April 20–May 29, 1994; traveled to Nagoya, Aichi Prefectural Museum of Art, June 10–July 24, 1994, and Yokohama Museum of Art, August 6–September 25, 1994, cat. 65 (color ill.)

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, p. 342, cat. 39 (color ill.); French cat., cat. 21 (color ill.).

Publication History

Robert Goldwater, “Reflections on the Rothko Exhibition,” “Arts” 35, 6 (March 1961), p. 44 (ill.), as “No. 19, 1948.”

Peter Selz, “Mark Rothko,” “L’Oeil” 76 (April 1961), p. 39 (ill.), as “Number 19, 1948.”

T. Elder Dickson, “‘Pure Art’: Past Present and Future,” “The Studio” 162, 820 (August 1961), p. 45 (ill.), as “No. 19, 1948.”

“Paintings in the Art Institute of Chicago” (Art Institute of Chicago, 1961), p. 405.

John Ashbery, “Paris Notes,” “Art International” 7, 2 (February 25, 1963), p. 73 (inverted ill.), as “Number 19, 1948.”

Robert T. Buck, Jr. et al., “Sam Francis: Paintings 1947–1972,” exh. cat. (Albright-Knox Art Gallery, 1972), p. 16 (ill.), as “No. 19, 1948.”

Elizabeth Till, “Mark Rothko at the Guggenheim,” “Northwest: The Sunday Oregonian Magazine” (December 17, 1978), p. 11 (inverted ill.).

Diane Waldman et al., “Mark Rothko, 1903–1970: A Retrospective,” exh. cat. (Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum/Harry N. Abrams, 1978), pp. 56, 273, cat. 88 (color ill.).

Hugh Adams, “Modern Painting” (Phaidon, 1979), p. 57 (color ill.), as “Painting, 1953–4.”

Nobuyuki Hiromoto, “Mark Rothko,” Contemporary Great Masters 4 (Kodansha, 1993), pl. 13 (color ill.).

James N. Wood and Teri J. Edelstein, “The Art Institute of Chicago: Twentieth-Century Painting and Sculpture” (Hudson Hills Press, 1996), p. 97 (color ill.).

David Anfam, "Mark Rothko, The Works on Canvas: A Catalogue Raisonné" (National Gallery of Art/Yale University Press, 1998), pp. 61, 69, fig. 65 (photo), cat. 403 (color ill.).

Glenn Phillips and Thomas Crow, eds., “Seeing Rothko” (Getty Research Institute, 2005), p. 33, pl. 16 (color ill.).

Ownership History

Betty Parsons Gallery, New York, by 1950; sold to private collectors, Chicago, 1950; given anonymously to the Art Institute, 1957.

Interpretive Resources

View mobile website