Rothko's Harvard Murals: Revived

Mark Rothko, Untitled (Study for Harvard Mural) (verso), c. 1961, opaque waterco
Mark Rothko, Untitled (Study for Harvard Mural) (verso), c. 1961, opaque watercolor on purple construction paper, (photo: Harvard Art Museums, © President and Fellows of Harvard College)

Franklin Einspruch reviews Mark Rothko's recently restored Harvard Murals on view at the Harvard Art Museums, Cambridge, MA, from November 16, 2014 - July 26, 2015.

Einspruch writes that the mural comprises "three canvases ... abutted into a triptych over thirty feet wide, and two more large canvases face them. Each of them employs the aforementioned image, if I may be forgiven for calling it that. The leftmost one in the triptych glows as if illuminated. The one on the right is a drab olive, which sinks into diminishing contrast with the wall. Read left to right, the implication is of containment, diminution, and death. Read the other way – the artist was the child of a rabbi, after all – it implies a vibrant dawning. The emotional impact is as grand as the physical scale... They are on the level of the rest of Rothko’s final decade, solemn, sublime, and enveloping. It’s unfashionable to talk about art this way, but they are as if a great truth had been put ineffably on the record." Einspruch also notes that the murals "were worked up from sketches in gouache on colored paper [that] reveal a kind of premeditation that we don’t always associate with the giants of abstract expressionism."