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Vessels of Magic

Mark Rothko

Contemporary Art

By 1940, Mark Rothko—deeply impressed by the European Surrealists, some of whom came to this country during World War II—integrated their technique of automatic drawing and their interest in myth into his own work and moved away from the direct representation seen in his earlier art. Reflecting on this time, Rothko later said: "It was with utmost reluctance that I found that the figure could not serve my purposes … but a time came when none of us could use the figure without mutilating it." Rothko's work of the mid-1940s is an amalgam of Surrealism and abstraction. Vessels of Magic anticipates these works with horizontal registers on the paper's surface broken only by passages of imagery and gesture. The vessel forms may suggest the artist's interest in classical mythology, while the image's watery quality has a primordial, mythic nature that suggests something of humankind's origins as well as the power of magic.
MEDIUM Watercolor on paper
DATES 1946
DIMENSIONS 38 3/4 x 25 3/4 in. (98.42 x 65.4 cm)  (show scale)
SIGNATURE Signed lower right: "Mark Rothko"
COLLECTIONS Contemporary Art
CREDIT LINE Museum Collection Fund
MUSEUM LOCATION This item is not on view
CAPTION Mark Rothko (American, born Russia, 1903-1970). Vessels of Magic, 1946. Watercolor on paper, 38 3/4 x 25 3/4 in. (98.42 x 65.4 cm). Brooklyn Museum, Museum Collection Fund, 47.106. © artist or artist's estate (Photo: Brooklyn Museum, 47.106_recto_PS11.jpg)
IMAGE recto, 47.106_recto_PS11.jpg. Brooklyn Museum photograph, 2022
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RIGHTS STATEMENT © artist or artist's estate
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