For my dissertation I will be looking at the period of Surrealism in M. Rothko’s art as it is more concentrated on the symbols from the mythology which was as well highly related to  C.G. Jung’s theories about unconscious.

The works to look and talk about in the dissertation vary from: ‘’Slow Swirl by the Edge of the Sea, 1944’’ and ‘’Hierarchical Birds, 1944’’ and ”Untitled, mid-1940’s”.

Rothko was a protagonist within the movement of American painters who became known as the Abstract Expressionists.
M. Rothko’s painting career can be divided into four periods: Realist (1924-1940), Surrealist (1940-1946), Tradicional art (1946-1949) and Classical art (1949-1970).
”His work during World War II and the immediate postwar period is marked by symbolic paintings, based in Greek mythology and religious motifs.”
‘Rothko was convinced that sustained creative activity can arise only when a child is encouraged from a young age to give concrete expression to ideas, fantasies and whims, without being limited by academic rules.
Rothko believed that ”the fact that one usually begins with drawing is already academic. We start with colour”.
Rothko was interested in ”Freud’s interpretations of dreams and C. G. Jung’s theories of the collective unconscious, in addition to having read the ancient Greek philosophers.”
His archetypes depicted barbarism and civilisation, dominant passions, pain, aggression and violence due to historic events of war and post-war.
Work examples : ”The Rape of Persephone”, ”Syrian Bull”, ”Antigone” and ”Oedipus”.
Howard Putzel about Rothkos art: ”Rothko’s style has a latent archaic quality…Rothko’s symbols, fragments of myth, are held together by free, almost automatic calligraphy that gives a peculiar unity to his paintings – a unity in which the individual symbol acquires its meaning, not in isolation, but rather in its melodic adjustment to the elements in the picture. It is this feeling of
internal fusion, of the historical conscious and subconscious capable of expanding far beyond the limits of the picture space, that gives Rothko’s work its force and essential character. But this is not to say that images created by Rothko are the thin evocations of the speculative intellect; they rather the concrete, the actual expression of the intuitions of an artist, to whom the subconscious represents not the farther, but the nearer shore of art.”

Baal-Teshuva, Jacob (2003). Mark Rothko 1903-1970 : pictures as drama. London : Taschen.

”Birth of Cephalopods” – an example of automatic drawing. ”The idea of the purely spontaneous gesture, a gesture motivated by authentic primal drives and charged with the mythy juices of the unconscious, necessarily remained just that – an ideal – mediated by the impossibility of sustaining a wholly unguarded frame of mind in an awake state for an extended period of time.
”Rothko perceived myth as a medium, in effect, that permitted a synthesis of the real and the unreal, the tangible and intangible, in a fuller, more authentic image of reality.”
”…Carl Jung, would likely have been even more appealing to Rothko, however: Jung regarded myths not as detached paradigms for psychological complexes but as the outcropping of ”living entities which cause the perforation of numinous ideas or dominant representations.”
”slow swirl by the edge of the sea” 1944
oil on canvas. collection of the museum of modern arts, New York.
”untitled” mid-1940’s collection of national gallery of art, Washington D.C.

Chave, A. C. (1989). Mark Rothko – Subjects in Abstraction. United States of America: Thomson-Shore Inc.

And a lot more information about M. Rothko and his art found at:


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