Mark Rothko: The Surrealist Years

The Surrealist Years exhibition comprised 23 canvases and 14 works on paper, according to the checklist published in Mark Rothko: The Exhibitions at Pace (2019). Canvases were borrowed from museums, including the Museum of Modern Art, which lent Slow Swirl at the Edge of the Sea (1944), and several private collections, including those of Kate Rothko Prizel and Christopher Rothko. Works on paper were drawn from the collections of Kate Rothko Prizel and Christopher Rothko, as well as one other private collector. All were created between 1938 and 1946, prior to Rothko’s move to full abstraction, and are imbued with biomorphic, aquatic, and fluid forms reminiscent of a European surrealist practice. Pace Gallery, which has represented the Rothko estate since 1978, hosted the show at its 32 East 57th Street venue in New York. The art historian, curator, and critic Robert Rosenblum (1927–2006) wrote an essay in the catalog that accompanied the exhibition.  


  • Mark Rothko: The Surrealist Years, The Pace Gallery, 32 East 57th Street, New York, April 24–May 30, 1981. Photography by Al Mozell, courtesy Pace Gallery.