Mark Rothko- Visual Analysis



Mark Rothko, no.9 (1947)

–       oil on canvas

–       date accessed: 27/ 02/14

–       reference:


Around he time of this painting on February 10th in 1947 the World War Two peace treaties was signed and the Voice of America begins broadcasting to USSR. You can tell the painting is from abstract surrealism by the big scale and bright colours that represented the movements style by uniting the artists together in American at a time when Europe was in a political instability in the 1930s. This painting was along with a series of eleven paintings altogether. In his earlier work he did landscapes and figures but he left them behind and started to work on painting like this one which included the ‘multiform’ featured blurred shapes created from layered washes of paint. The painting includes warm reds, oranges and yellows that are distributed by the strange black mass coming in from the left as well as the brushy swirled lines of blue in the lower section of the painting. From the blues compared to the yellows and reds they give and light and dark tone again separating the image. The image looks rough and grainy by the brush strokes. Each layer has a blurred edge that separate it from each blocked colour beginning to show through the rectangular shapes it’s made; that is also experimented with size and scale also. Although it wouldn’t necessarily be considered as abstract expressionism Rothko believed these were abstract forms “Organisms…with the passion for self-expression”.  His work wasn’t just about presenting colour relationships but he thought it was in expressing the big emotions- tragedy, ecstasy and doom. 


Selection tools On Photoshop (cut outs)

To cut out this image of a wheel I used the Elliptical Marquee Tool to see if I could get a circular cut out of the wheel (first image). However this second image with spaces of the sky. So instead I used the polygonal Lasso Tool to select the wheel more precisely or I could used the quick selection tool that quickly selects the block of area you want giving you the ability to add or take away from your selection. Allowing you to then cut out the wheel and place wherever or copy it as a new layer on top of the original. 




Using Selection tools to create Surrealist Art:



I Cut out the ‘mini me’s’ using the quick selection tool so I could re-scale and manipulate them to look like miniature cloned characters. I duplicated each miniature character using the quick selection tool so I could ‘colour overlay’ it in photoshop and add a shadow to make it look more realistic. I then used the ‘Pen tool’ to select and cut out a piece of branch to make it look like the structure to hold the clones on. I then finally drew on the strings with a light grey colour to make the top two look like puppets on a string being controlled by the larger scale of myself.  




This image was inspired by the photographer Ari Mahardhika. I used the polygonal lasso tool to select and cut around all the miniature characters to then manipulate and place onto this large image of a large scale me with the camera. I placed them where I thought fit and so they would look like they’re all helping and taking part in taking a self-portrait with each character having a vital role in composition the image. To finish the image off i could have selected each layer of the miniature characters and auto toned them so they didn’t stand out as darker characters from the large scale character and therefore would have given a more realistic effect on the final image. 




This image was inspired by Guiseppe Mastromatteo. I manipulated two photographers together, one where i had my arm down and the side of my face showing and the other with my arm up. I then layered them on top of each other and had the arm one opaque so that i could see the one without the arm showing through to therefore align the eye up onto the arm. I then used the polygonal lasso tool to select the eye and eyebrow and then cut and place on top of the arm. I placed this layer on top of the layer with the arm up to my face and then deleted the layer with the arm down so i only had the cut out of the eye and eyebrow. I then changed the tone and contrast of the eye so that it fit the shades and tones of the arm and therefore giving an absurd, surreal and mind-boggling effect to the viewer. I then cropped the image to finish it off and give a neutral look removing the boob tube top from showing through and detracting the effect from the final outcome. 


Abstract expressionism & minimalism

American style

post war abstraction– 

Abstract Expressionism

Franzkline New York 1953

-Expression through line and the large scale of the brush strokes and paintings ( important factor to the movement)

– looks like a structure of some sort and evokes the feelings of looking at structures in America

– The colour scheme is monochromatic and gives us a high contrast


Timescale: mid 1940’s – late 50’s


– During and post world war 2, first nuclear bomb used

– lots of European emigres in NY

– post great depression of 1929-39)

– the cold war 1945-80

– federal arts project 1935-43

  • Main artists: Jackson Pollock, Mark Rothko, Willem De Kooning, Franz Klein, Robert Motherwell, Barnett Newman, Clifford Still, Lee Krazner

-All the artists moved to America from Paris because of the war, just after the american depression. They had the chance to set up their own American movement and create these big paintings to fill the streets and brighten the area, which they were being paid to do in teams rather than individual artists allowing them to exchange ideas to create this new movement. –

Themes and Concerns:

– Existentialism

-Synthesis of styles

– Surrealism- but a rejection of freud

– Jung and the ‘collective unconscious’

– The sublime (overwhelming of the senses like you’re blown away)

– Profound emotion, introspection and universal themes

– Reflects post-war anxiety and trauma

– Interested in myths and archetypal symbols ( things that occur in myths and fiction like a Princess, Prince, Witch, Evil step mum, Horse etc.)

– 2 types of abstract expressionism

  •        Gestural (action) paintings
  •        Colour field painting


Pollock, Summer time 1948

– Large scale

– busy

– Curved lines

– Limited colour Palette

– Abstract

– Flowing

– organic lines


Franz Kline, the chief 1950

– High speed of a train

– movement

– what he remembers as a kid from being and looking out of a train


Robert Motherwell, Elegy to the spanish Republic 54 (1957-61)

– life and death contrast using the black and white


-looks 3D

– The gap at the bottom of the image makes it 3 Dimensional with depth if it wasn’t there it looks more flat


Willem De Kooning, Woman 1 1950-52

– Cluttered

– Filled

– Flat

– Colourful

– Bold

– Thick brush strokes

– Clashing

– Complementary

– Out of proportion

– Motherhood?

– He was exploring the archetypal woman: women look beautiful traditionally in paintings (passive) in art but this one is the opposite in the way he’s made it look ugly and quite terrifying. Representing a pin up girl of the 1950s and rejects the traditional passiveness of women.


Colour Field Painting

Clyfford Still, Indian red and black

– We can only talk about the image in terms of formal elements therefore we can only agree on line, colour, shape etc. this was due to Clyfford’s idea that the painting could look like anything like animal pattern, peeling paint on a wall or anything that it could look like and therefore you are only able to agree that the painting is based on formal elements.


Rothko, Four darks in red 1958

– deep

– one of the most famous abstract expressionism

– been through a lot of paintins before he made this one

– evokes emotion

– big blocks of colour


Rothko, untitled 1969

– Moon landings depiction, a response to the images of the first ever pictures of the moon landings

– If you look at the images and the painting together they look almost the same


Rothko, Mural for End wall (untitled) 1959

-painted for seagram mural restaurant

– He was asked to paint it for the restaurant and got paid to do so. However after he finished the painting he went to the restaurant to check out how it would look in there and after that decided it wouldn’t fit in or look good there and the people that ate there were mainly upper class business men that wouldn’t appreciate the art work he made and therefore decided to give the money back and donate the painting to the tate modern gallery where he new they’d look after it and present his paintings the way he wanted them to be presented.


Abstract Expressionism Review

– 2 types: Gestural and colour field

– A response to post war anxiety and trauma

– painters as heroic

– extentialism

– jung and collective unconscious

– mural size paintins

– communicate surroundings

– importance of crisis

– greenburg and rosenburg



– A response to Abstract Expressionism –


Carl Andre, Equivalent VIII 1966

– Bricks (industrial materials of everyday life- links to constructivism)

– This way of art gets rid of all association to the artist

– It’s equal to but not the same, in this sense the number and mass to the work is the same but the shape is different

– This piece was bought for £60,000

– No expression through him


Timeline: 1960 to mid 1970s

Context and themes:

– reaction against abstraction Expressionism

– influenced by constructivism, De Stijl and Duchamp’s

– Reduction to geometric essentials

– blurs boundries between painting and sculpture

-remove suggestions of self expression

– minimum number of colours, shapes, lines and textures

  • Main artistis: Donald Judd, Frank Stella, Robert Morris


– Intellectual group of people; it was more to do with the idea behind the art –


Robert Morris, untitled 1967/68 Remade

– Industrial felt

– was made so it fell on it’s own weight

– the idea is not the way it’s presented, as how it would of originally made couldn’t be reconstructed to the exact same position


Donald Judd, untitled 1985

– taking the emotion and meaning away by naming it untitled 

-Letting you make your own mind up about the sculpture of how it makes you feel and letting you indulge and evoke this emotion yourself by starring at it rather than having a name pinned to it



  • Minimalism:

– geometric configurations

– Industrial Materials

– Refers to themselves they are objects in their own right

– removal of authorship

Visual Analysis- Minimalism

Bruce Nauman

Title: The true artist helps the world by revealing mystic Truths 1967

Medium/Technique: Window or wall sign

Date accessed: 13/03/2014


This is a minimalism movement that started around 1966, which was around the time of an anti-Vietnam war protest that then went on for another 5 years, with up to 200,000 protesters in just 1966 alone around the world. This piece is of some neon lighting that says “The true Artist helps the world by revealing mystic truths” in big neon lighting creating the image in a form of advertising telling you about an artist, but of a different kind. It’s colourful with bright reds and blues and neon lighting, like his earlier works with neon, and has a typical tone of dry satire like in many of his works too. The text goes round in a circular motion of text with a swirled line leading the eye around the piece and around the text, giving an overall circular shape. The texture of the piece is smooth with a glassy feel of the clear glass neon lighting tubes used to create the piece. With it being a minimalism piece this shows a good example of blurring the boundaries of sculpture and paintings. Apart from the line, shape, textures and colours I’ve mentioned there is only a minimal amount of them depicted in the piece.