Mark Rothko

Four Darks in Red
1958

Artist
Mark Rothko

Title
Four Darks in Red

Date
1958

Medium
Oil on canvas

Dimensions
Overall: 101 13/16 × 116 3/8 in. (258.6 × 295.6 cm)

Classification
Paintings

Credit line
Purchase, with funds from the Friends of the Whitney Museum of American Art, Mr. and Mrs. Eugene M. Schwartz, Mrs. Samuel A. Seaver and Charles Simon

Accession number
68.9

Rights and reproductions information
© artist or artist’s estate

Object label
Four Darks in Red exemplifies Mark Rothko’s darker palette of the late 1950s, when he increasingly used red, maroon, and saturated black paints. Four dark rectangular areas of different proportions dominate the composition, simultaneously emerging from and receding into a luminous red ground. Rothko’s method of layering many coats of paint, along with the special reflective qualities of his color mixtures, gives his paintings an inimitable depth and incandescence. When this nearly ten-foot wide canvas is seen close up (as the artist intended), the viewer is engulfed in an atmosphere of color and intense visual sensations. The weightiest dark color is at the top of the canvas while a softer roseate glow emanates from below, creating a reversal of visual gravity. Rothko believed that such abstract perceptual forces had the ability to summon what he called “the basic emotions—tragedy, ecstasy, and doom.”