HUMAN SCALE: Mark Rothko



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I paint very large pictures. I realize that historically the function of painting large pictures is painting something very grandiose and pompous. The reason I paint them however, – I think it applies to other painters I know -, is precisely because I want to be very intimate and human. To paint a small picture is to place yourself outside your experience, to look upon an experience as a stereopticon view or with a reducing glass. However you paint the larger picture, you are in it. It isn’t something you command.

—Mark Rothko, May 1951

We argued about the significance of his paintings because he felt that they had a certain sense of foreboding and so on, and I didn’t feel that at all. I felt they were very involved with comfort and luxury and they looked very natural in Jeanne Reynal’s luxurious house, and people looked very well against them. They made a wonderful graceful decor, all of which was anathema to Rothko … I think when he got away from the pretty colors, beautiful colors and he got into those mysterious blacks and nameless deep, dark colors, that then the paintings did have this sense of foreboding. And I think they’re his most magnificent paintings. But those big black paintings, they took me by surprise … I was tremendously impressed. I found them very grand and the scale of them, the size, it was just quite amazing.

—Elaine de Kooning, 1981

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