DAM Announces Exhibition of Artist Mark Rothko's Decisive Decade

Includes works that have rarely been exhibited

The Denver Art Museum (DAM) announced today that it will present the exhibition Figure to Field: Mark Rothko in the 1940s, June 23–September 29, 2013. Figure to Field highlights the artistic evolution of one of the most influential artists of the 20th century by showcasing works created in the critical decade of his formative development. Drawn primarily from the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C.—the largest repository of Rothko’s work anywhere in the world—the exhibition includes many paintings, drawings and watercolors rarely seen before. The exhibition will be on view in the museum’s Gallagher Family Gallery and is included in general admission.

Mark Rothko, No. 9, 1948. Oil and mixed media on canvas overall: 53-1/16 x 46 5/8 in. Gift of The Mark Rothko Foundation, Inc. ©1997 Christopher Rothko and Kate Rothko Prizel  ©1998 Kate Rothko Prizel & Christopher Rothko/Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York. Image courtesy National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.

Mark Rothko, No. 9, 1948. Oil and mixed media on canvas overall: 53-1/16 x 46 5/8 in. Gift of The Mark Rothko Foundation, Inc. ©1997 Christopher Rothko and Kate Rothko Prizel  ©1998 Kate Rothko Prizel & Christopher Rothko/Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York. Image courtesy National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.
Figure to Field provides our visitors a visual delight as well as an understanding of Rothko’s artistic journey during the 10 years he developed from a sensitive and gifted figurative painter to become the master of the sublime in the 20th century,” said Christoph Heinrich, Frederick and Jan Mayer Director of the Denver Art Museum.

The exhibit will include 28 works by Rothko that illuminate his artistic evolution to become the preeminent artist of the Color Field branch of the New York school. “By the end of this decade, the rectangular bands that quietly described the backgrounds of earlier paintings became the essential fields of his mature works,” said Gwen Chanzit, curator of modern art at the DAM.

To provide a broader context for Rothko’s development, Figure to Field will also feature 11 works by some of the artist’s celebrated contemporaries who shared Rothko’s artistic search, including Robert Motherwell, Clyfford Still and Jackson Pollock. The recent opening of the Clyfford Still Museum adjacent to the DAM will afford visitors and scholars an opportunity to understand the relationship between the two masters. The DAM will partner with Clyfford Still Museum as well as the Curious Theatre Company for exhibition-related programming.

The exhibition will follow a rough chronological path, tracing Rothko’s journey from the figurative through surrealist myth-based works, the surrealist-abstracted and the multiforms, all the way to the classic/color field paintings he began at the end of the decade—Rothko’s signature compositions of softly lit rectangular fields that have the capacity to transport viewers to meditative states.

Mark Rothko, Sea Fantasy, 1946. Oil paint on canvas. Gift of The Mark Rothko Foundation, Inc., National Gallery of Art, ©1998 Kate Rothko Prizel & Christopher Rothko/Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York. Image courtesy National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.

Mark Rothko, Sea Fantasy, 1946. Oil paint on canvas. Gift of The Mark Rothko Foundation, Inc., National Gallery of Art, ©1998 Kate Rothko Prizel & Christopher Rothko/Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York. Image courtesy National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.
“Within the realm of Rothko’s oeuvre, the works in this exhibition are the keys to everything,” said the artist’s son Christopher Rothko in the exhibition catalogue.

Exhibition Tour Schedule

  • Columbia Museum of Art, Columbia, S.C.: September 14, 2012–January 6, 2013
  • Columbus Museum of Art, Columbus, Ohio: February 1, 2013–May 26, 2013
  • Denver Art Museum, Denver, Colo.: June 23, 2013–September 29, 2013
  • Arkansas Arts Center, Little Rock, Ark: October 25, 2013–February 9, 2014

Exhibition Catalogue

A full color, 170-page catalogue, Mark Rothko: The Decisive Decade, 1940–1950, will be available in the Museum Shop.

Media Resources

Exhibition Credit Line

Figure to Field: Mark Rothko in the 1940s is organized by the Arkansas Art Center, the Columbia Museum of Art, the Columbus Museum of Art and the Denver Art Museum, in conjunction with the National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C. The exhibition is funded in part by the Dedalus Foundation. Local support is provided by Christie’s, the generous donors to the Annual Fund Leadership Campaign and the citizens who support the Scientific and Cultural Facilities District (SCFD). Promotional support is provided by 5280 Magazine, CBS4 and The Denver Post. This exhibition is supported by an indemnity from the Federal Council on the Arts and the Humanities.

Download PDF of press release.