Help me find the original Rothko.
October 28, 2009 10:22 AM   Subscribe

Why are there so many versions of Rothko's "Violet, Green, and Red" and which is correct?

I am looking at prints to buy from online stores, but the colors are so different, and some of them are even upside down (complete with his name at the bottom, so it's clearly an error in printing, not just how it was posted).

Or is there a difference between "No. 6 (Violet, Green, and Red)" vs. just "Violet, Green, and Red"?

Does anyone have a picture of the original? Thanks!
posted by Knowyournuts to Media & Arts (11 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
If you want to copy the original, drop the 300K+ and buy the original. Otherwise, get the one that looks the best to you and if "people" ask you about (which I doubt they would), tell them you liked that one the best.
posted by omidius at 11:21 AM on October 28, 2009

Response by poster: I want to know which orientation the artist intended?
posted by Knowyournuts at 11:22 AM on October 28, 2009

Surely they are all pictures of the original. That's the problem.
Even the original is going to look different in your living room.
You need to see the original under full spectrum lighting, or find someone who has seen it in a gallery and who can guide you to the most faithful reproduction.
As for orientation, here you go.
posted by weapons-grade pandemonium at 11:29 AM on October 28, 2009

Best answer: It's my impression Rothko listed colors in all those chromatic studies titles top-to-bottom, so I would think the ones with violet at the top would be correct (for example, Amazon's print). As far as color balance, that's so variable with the photographer, graphics program, and viewer's monitor that unless you are in the room with the original it's probably a tough call. Maybe your local library has an exhibition catalogue or coffee table book from a reputable press (who would have tried to get it right) you could compare with?
posted by aught at 11:34 AM on October 28, 2009

Maybe your local library has an exhibition catalogue or coffee table book from a reputable press (who would have tried to get it right) you could compare with?

Note that the whiteness of the paper used, the coating (or lack thereof) on the paper, the ink used, and the lighting in the room in which you're looking at a photo all affect the color you perceive. Color is frustrating and fascinating.
posted by runningwithscissors at 11:38 AM on October 28, 2009 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Colors listed top to bottom, that makes sense. So has it right, and has one that's upside down. Even side-by-side on my monitor, I am seeing vibrant colors vs. muted ones, so I think I will head down to the library and see if I can find some different photos of the original and learn a little more about it.

Thanks, all. You've got to realize that I am an art appreciater, not an artist. I'm very literal. So it helps to have folks reminding me that one can get different perspectives of the same painting, even the original.
posted by Knowyournuts at 11:54 AM on October 28, 2009 [1 favorite]

After your AskMe inspired me to surf galleries and exhibition catalogues on the web, I should amend my comment to say that it looks as if Rothko actually named very few of his works and that catalogers were the ones who later named the studies in the convenient top-to-bottom color way. (I'd be sort of surprised MeFi if doesn't have an art history PhD who specialized in Abstract Expressionism to come in and make a definitive comment on the matter.) I was also trying to figure out from the books in Google books and Amazon previews where the original of that print is, but I have given up since I have real work to do here at the office... though I'd rather look at endless Rothkos all afternoon, honestly.
posted by aught at 12:09 PM on October 28, 2009

Response by poster: Aught, you also just answered my question about why the naming varies. You are on a roll!
posted by Knowyournuts at 3:29 PM on October 28, 2009

Rothko often did a whole series of paintings in similar colours, if you can, I recommend seeing his originals in a gallery, unfortunately none of the reproductions I've seen come anywhere close to reproducing the multi-layered 'colours on colours' that the originals have.
posted by Lanark at 6:43 PM on October 28, 2009

I never understood why Rothkos were held in such high esteem until I saw one in a gallery and realisation dawned 'Oh! so THATS why'. It was far bigger than I was expecting and so subtle and textured and so many more colours than the photos in books would suggest. Im not surprised people struggle to get pictures of them the right way up.

On the same visit I finally 'saw' Matisse's The Snail. I'd had a book with it on the cover for years and it wasnt until I saw the damn thing in real life (also really, really big) that I noticed it was a spiral. Doh.
posted by Ness at 4:16 AM on October 29, 2009

Lanark - yes, I agree with one having to see Rothko's in person to get the full impact (I mean, this is true of most paintings, of course), and that sense of subtle layering almost never comes through in commercial posters or obviously the little pictures in catalogue or coffee table books. Many years ago I worked on the Yale campus and I used to go over to the art gallery after work sometimes just to stare at the Rothkos (and Pollocks) they had in one room. I couldn't get enough of them.

And, to the OP, seeing a couple Rothkos in person might help you decide which poster or print has the color balance that most matches your fond memory of his works.
posted by aught at 8:37 AM on October 29, 2009

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