The Easel

Archives: Adam Greenhalgh

13th February 2024

Between Risk and Control: How Mark Rothko Discovered His Signature Style

A Washington show has renewed interest in Rothko’s watercolours that preceded his colour field works in oils. Although having an “obvious facility” with this medium, these early works hint at his future abstractions – faces are reduced to blank masks while background details are “more confident”. In one show where he included both watercolours and oils, the former received greater praise. Rothko, though, had his sights set on oils and, for the next decade, exhibited nothing else.