In June 1958, Rothko accepted a commission to paint a series of canvases for the Four Seasons restaurant in the Seagram Building, New York, the skyscraper designed by Ludwig Mies van der Rohe and Philip Johnson and completed that year. In 1958 and 1959 Rothko painted about thirty large-scale canvases for the project, of which seven would likely have been installed had he not abandoned the project in 1959. Rothko made six preliminary studies, including the current double-sided work, three in crayon and three in a water-based medium, likely poster paint. Almost certainly made prior to the works on canvas [Dore Ashton, About Rothko (New York, 1983), 153], these small works on paper explore a horizontal, frieze-like scheme of architectonic forms evocative of the framed portals that eventually manifested in the canvases. A series of parallel vertical creases in the current sheet may be accidental or may testify to the artist’s interest in isolating a passage from the larger composition.
Mark Rothko: Works on Paper will ultimately document approximately 2,600 works from public and private collections worldwide. Cataloging is ongoing, and works and information will be added to the site during the coming years.