Looking at the Seagram Murals by Mark Rothko
It’s hard for me to verbalize my experience in the room housing the Seagram Murals. It’s a dimly lit space, housing ten canvases painted by Mark Rothko. Originally intended for the Four Seasons restaurant in the Seagram Building, the paintings were donated to Tate after Rothko withdrew his paintings and returned the commission. The paintings were intended to be oppressive, to “make the viewers feel that they are trapped in a room where all the doors and windows are bricked up, so that all they can do is butt their heads for ever against the wall." The delivery of these paintings on the day of his suicide further gives the works a terrible gravity. However, immersed in the murals I felt a sense of calm and comfort, like a thick warm blanket on a cold winter day. Perhaps it is the simplicity and stillness created by the composition of color. Or maybe the feelings derive from the expression of emotions that designers are usually denied access to in our work, that make these paintings evocative. Whatever it may be, these paintings continues to be the most glorious but also the most difficult of paintings to interpret.
Find out more about the Seagram Murals in Room 3, Tate Modern here.