Mark Rothko was one of the most important painters that ever lived in the 20th century. But like many great painters, he died in a tragic matter by suicide in 1970.
His final painting, a bright red painting called Untitled, 1970 that many feel symbolizes blood, particularly his blood as he died from an overdose and slashing his wrists; Mark Rothko was 66 years old and left no suicide note. We know that before his death, he also painted a black and grey series that many have felt was his painted suicide note.
Untitled 1970, By Mark Rothko – His Last Painting
The final painting by Mark Rothko is titled “Untitled 1970.” Though this painting is very similar to many other paintings, there are also some differences.
One of the first things you will notice about this iconic painting is that the painting is almost all red with some white. Even though it has his trademark rectangles, the painting is just one color, red.
Many feel this painting was painted red and a different color red from many of his other paintings, which have more subdued colors and are not as bright a red as the red used in Untitled 1970/ We do not know for sure – still, many feel it was Mark Rotho symbolizing blood – in particular his blood.
Mark Rothko’s Suicide – 25 February 1970
In February 1970, on a cold winter morning, the body of Mark Rothko was found in his Manhattan studio. He had overdosed on barbiturates and cut an artery on his right arm with a razor blade.
He was found in a pool of blood six feet by eight feet wide, wearing longjohns and thick black socks. He left no note; he was only 66 years old.
No one knows why he committed suicide. Even his children do not know. In speaking to the Guardian, his daughter Kate Rothko Prizel said this about her father’s death:
Mark Rothko left no will, and his estate and paintings ended in a lengthy legal battle that eventually, his daughter Kate who was 19 years old when he died, and son Christopher was six years old, won; his paintings and estate ended up in a lengthy legal battle for over ten years.
Shortly before his death Rothko and his financial advisor Bernard Reis had created a foundation to fund research and education; the foundation was to receive the bulk of Rothko’s estate.
But upon Rothko’s death, Reis sold the paintings to the Marlborough Gallery at a much-reduced price; Bernard Reis split the profits with the Marlborough gallery owners.
Just six months after his untimely death, his second wife and mother of his two children also died. His daughter, then 19 years old, started the legal proceedings to get back her father’s estate.
When Mark Rothko died, there were still 798 paintings that were not sold, and even in the 1970s, dollars were estimated to be valued in the millions. His children and what should have been his rightful heirs eventually won the case and got control of his estate, but not before many of his paintings were sold.
In 1968 Mark Rothko suffered an aortic aneurysm; during his recovery, he was limited in how he could paint. He started to paint some of the black-on-grey series. We are unsure if this is a prelude to his death, but the paintings are more depressive than his previous work.
Black On Grays Paintings – By Mark Rothko (Untitled, 1970)
Many feel that Mark Rothko’s painting series known as black on grays was his kind of suicide note. The work is black and almost oppressive compared to many of his earlier paintings.
There is soberness about these paintings that you can see when compared to many of his other paintings, which have a brighter feel.
The paintings are black rectangles and gray rectangles. There’s a buildup of thin translucent layers of shaded black; the effect is strangely ambiguous.
Mark Rothko was known to say that the Black and Grey paintings were about death. He painted them as lonely and empty images.; one of his most famous ones is the Untitled 1970 of the Black and Grey series.
The black and grey series was not his final painting, as his final painting is also Untitled 1970, but with the red blood color, yet the black and gray painting shows a sense of doom and death.
The black and grey paintings were a prelude to Mark Rothko’s death. The English Newspaper The Guardian wrote this about their conversations with his daughter Kate Rothko Prizel and her father’s later work:
Nobody knows whether or not his last painting, Untitled 1970 with its bright red colors, was signifying blood and was a prelude to his eventual suicide. We also do not know if the black and gray was a prelude to the depression he was having and if it was his painted suicide note to let us all know how much he was suffering.
Even his family is not sure of these facts because he left no note to tell us precisely what he was thinking.
We know that he was and continues to be one of the most valuable and essential artists that ever lived in the 20th century. Even today, his paintings continue to fetch record prices at auctions worldwide.
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Why Paintings Like Rothko’s No. 6 (Violet, Green, & Red) Are Expensive
Mark Rothko’s No 6 (Violet, Green, and Red – 1951) was sold in 2014 for 140,000.000 Euro or over 184,000,000 USD. A vast amount for any painting. Many of Mark Rothko’s paintings continue to fetch record numbers at auction houses worldwide.
By clicking here, you can learn more by reading Why Paintings Like Rothko’s No. 6 (Violet, Green, & Red) Are Expensive.
What Makes Mark Rothko’s Paintings So Valuable?
Mark Rothko’s paintings have been valuable for many years; they are in high demand and continue to fetch record prices around the globe. At first glance, the paintings may look simple, but upon closer look, they are very complex; they are meant to evoke our emotions and transport us to another realm.
Why Are Mark Rothko’s Paintings Considered Special?
Mark Rothko’s paintings are remarkable because they are original works of art. He is one of the founders of the abstract expressionism movement and color field painting. But more than that, he believed that his spirit lives within the art and that we, the individuals, can view his art can be taken to a different realm.
By clicking here, you can learn more by reading Why Are Mark Rothko’s Paintings Considered Special?.