Two Rothkos from Jacob Baal-Teshuva’s Rothko (2003 Taschen edition). “The aim of his life’s work was to express the essence of the universal human drama” (p17). Said Rothko, “‘Any picture which does not provide the environment in which the breath of life can be drawn does not interest me'” (p45).

Violet Stripe

Violet Stripe, 1956.

“‘Silence is so accurate,’ he said, adding that words would only ‘paralyze’ the viewer’s mind. In one conversation he said, ‘Maybe you have noticed two characteristics exist in my paintings; either the surfaces are expansive and push outward in all directions, or the surfaces contract and rush inward in all directions. Between these two poles you can find everything I want to say'” (p50).


Untitled, 1969.

“On another occasion, he announced that, ‘A painting is not about experience. It is an experience'” (p57).

5 Responses to “Rothko and the Breath of Life”

  1. Greg Pass Says:

    Mirco, the 5th element.

  2. Mirco Says:

    Yes, it is a ravishing picture of the quinta essentia:

    the eternal ether (or akasha, in Hindu’s terminology) that permeates our kosmos. Ether was well accepted till the early 20th century, when Einstein’s relativity allegedly removed it from the realm of scientific notions. But… did it? In QED the void “spits out” particles in his excited modes. Emptiness is full to the brim…

    PS My last quotation was inaccurate: it is Gargantua, First Book, not Pantagruel.

  3. Andrew Clarke Says:

    Unfortunately I missed out on a chance a while back to see a showing of some of his paintings. As implied in your quotations, there’s no other way to see them. Photos of them are contradictory to their purpose.

  4. Greg Pass Says:

    Andrew —

    The Phillips Collection (in DC, near both of us) recently reopened their Rothko Room.

  5. kirke Says:

    thanks for this. (:

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