Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Claude Monet ~ Waterlilies and Mark Rothko

Yesterday, Voice from the Couch couldn't put down the Monet and Modernism book. He had already read up on Andy Warhol and then found Mark Rothko in an earlier section. Voice had this to say... "Well of course, Rothko would be connected to Monet. This is great." Some time later, Voice let me have the book back and I was able to continue my reading on Rothko and some of his thoughts on Monet.
The reactions [of the viewers]...say unanimously my work has the power to convery anew way of looking. This message becomes visible through a new structural language they have never experienced before. In my pictures you find an unspoiled, conscious, elemental humanity. Even the pictures of Monet have something of this, which is why I prefer Monet to Cezanne... Despite the general view that Cezanne created a new way of looking at things and was the father of modern painting, I prefer Monet. Monet was the greater artist of the two. I don't agree with the current public opinion about the colorists and their art... because color in itself is among the sensory components of art.
This quote is from a conversation between Rothko and Alfred Jensen on June 17, 1953.

The two paintings above show Claude Monet's Water Lily painting from 1916 and on the right Mark Rothko's untitled, 1952 in similar yellow greens and lavenders. Rothko has taken the horizontal Monet with its visual field of waterlilies and made it vertical. Rothko carries the abstraction one more step. Take a look at the Rothko piece and you can that see his technique of taking spaces filled with color and then have them hover is very similar to the inner spaces of surface found in Monet's waterlily paintings.

And of course there is also the series aspect of Rothko's work. Much like Warhol (see yesterday's posting), Rothko is indebted to Monet for pioneering the concept of repetition, the creation of a series. A prime example of that would be his Seagram murals (see below). Originally designed for the Four Seasons the original plan was for seven – that is all the rooms the restaurant could handle. How many did Rothko produce? Not just the nine that ultimately became part of the Tate collection but 21 others for a total of 30. To see all of the Tate murals click here. There's also a curator's video at that site as well as gallery notes. The image below is of three of the murals. Voice from the Couch is making plans to see these sometime this year! Until then he plans to make frequent visits to the Portland Art Museum's Monet - Waterlilies.

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