Mark Rothko’s monumental 1954 canvas No. 7 (Dark over Light) will feature in Christie’s May 17 Post-War and Contemporary Art Evening Sale in New York.
The piece is executed in dark oils with a lighter patch towards the bottom of the composition and measures 2m in height and 1.4m across.
There’s no estimate available, but Rothko is one of the most in-demand painters on the international market. His work sells for tens of millions, with the record being the $86.9m paid for Orange, red, yellow in 2012.
“Standing before this radiant picture, one is immediately enveloped by the dramatic brilliance of Rothko’s artistic vision,” says Christie’s global president Jussi Pylkkänen.
“Between its intensely kinetic surface and its epic scale, No. 7 is a consummate example of Rothko’s ability to convey pure emotional power.”
Rothko began to play with darker colours in the 1950s. The apex of his work from this period was the extraordinary Seagram murals – originally painted for the Four Seasons restaurant in New York, although Rothko later turned down the commission. The huge size of the canvases has been a mainstay since the beginning.
Rothko later explained: “I paint very large pictures. I realise that historically the function of painting large pictures is painting something very grandiose and pompous. The reason I paint them, however… is precisely because I want to be very intimate and human.
“To paint a small picture is to place yourself outside your experience, to look upon an experience as a stereopticon view or with a reducing glass. However you paint the larger picture, you are in it. It isn’t something you command.”