And here where to my eye, Mark Rothko really hits his stride. This is a painting called Number Ten from 1950. Titles by the way, for Rothko are not particularly interesting or important, in my mind. And that's not a criticism. Rothko was one of many painters of this generation. Think of Jackson Pollock, Ad Reinhardt, Clyfford Still, among others, who really didn't like conventional titles for a painting. The reason why is because they wanted to liberate their painting from the realm of alluding to other things. In other words, paintings not about something else from life, but really just about itself, paint. Contrast this with Arshile Gorky, among others, who loved to inject literature into their work via Surrealism, among other sources. Rothko, in his early period actually did favor titles like that. But they didn't stick around for very long because Rothko was interested in the experience of a painting, the viewer's experience of a painting being just about that actually. Not even being bound to the strictures of the subconscious and thinking about Freud and Jung, who were so hot flavors of that time. But rather just being about the experience of paint. Which is a long way to say that this painting is called Number Ten because it's arbitrary, because it's not interesting. Because it's not really anything more than a place keeper. Perhaps just the tenth painting that Rothko completed in 1950 which is really this crucial year for so many of the artists of this generation. Why is it crucial for Rothko? Because in my mind he synthesized everything that he has done in his career previously and everything begins to come together in 1950. Well one of those things as we've been talking about is composition. From the multiform period, Rothko has really become fixated on this very elegant structure, these stacked floating largely rectangular zones of color and now that the round shapes are gone, the really complicated zones within zones are also gone. Now we have something very very spare, classical and elegant. Combine that with Rothko's returned interest to the translucency of paint. Remember that Rothko began with so many watercolors working on paper, which of course, is translucent. But now working in oil paint and treating oil paint to kind of act like watercolor. In other words, adding a lot of solvent to the paint. In his case, turpentine, perhaps in your case, mineral spirits. In other words, taking oil paint, which can be so robust, can be very pastose or thick and very opaque, and rather, treating it like watercolor, making veils of color, one over another over another. Interestingly, if you look at a cross-section of a painting like this, and recall that a cross-section is this very, very fine slice into the painting, which you wouldn't even see looking at the painting afterwards. That you then mount into epoxy or plastic something like that. And you can look at the layer structure of painting like a layer cake or something like that. Rothko cross sections are fascinating to look at because sometimes there are 15 very, very thin paint layers and they don't seem to have any rhyme or reason to them. There's one that's orange. The next one blue. Then there's white. Then there's purple. Then there's orange again. Then there's red. The reason is, Rothko's continually building these paintings up, without a preconceived notion of what color goes where necessarily, or really where each zone starts and stops in some cases. Rather, because all these colors are translucent, because they're veils of pigments applied in succession, every color has colors beneath it that are being able to be read through it. Meaning that the actual color of this white on the surface is nowhere on that painting, because you're always reading things through that white because it's so damn thin. Now, in areas like this yellow, rather, which are actually painted with an opaque pigment, cadmium yellow, I imagine. When it becomes very dense you do get a sense for what that yellow looks like because it's an opaque pigment. But it's put on so sparingly that you're seeing the unevenness, the very deliberate and elegant unevenness of that paint application because you're reading different colors through it. What colors? Well sometimes you can tell by the edges which are left in reserve. You can see there's a veil of white at least under parts of that yellow. Underneath that white, you can see that there's some of this burgundy read through that, which is also translucent. Underneath that burgundy, there's certainly blue. Now, there could be other stuff in there. I guess that there probably is. But that's the reason why these colors are so complicated in your eye, because your eye is not seeing just yellow, or orange, or blue, but rather, you're reading two, four, sometimes eight different colors through each other. So you have this very complicated admixture, or synthesis of all these translucent tones, read all in the eye at once. What else is going on? More virtuosic brushstrokes, very, very beautiful, brushy abstract edges to these zones. And in fact what are these zones, you may think of this zone as one in the beginning, and perhaps it was, but then realize that this latter, or bottom I should say, half of this white zone is a much warmer color, kind of that buffed titanium color that we've worked with in the studio. A warmer color than this cool, but still very, very translucent white above it. These active little flares of brush strokes here, help to accent one zone off of something underneath it. Here we have these little hints of green that have almost totally been obliterated. But this green acts as this interesting little border between, not the blue and white, but actually between the blue and this hint of burgundy and the white again. Which is to say that close looking is rewarded in Mark Rothko's work, especially of this period. The more you look, the more you see. And you should approach these paintings quite close as I am, when I'm pointing out these physical aspects of the painting to you and then retreat back and view a painting from a distance and even more of a distance. And then you start to really understand how these things work spatially. Now in this case, spatially, you have this yellow which is not only the most principally dominant form because of its location and size in the canvas, but it's also a very warm color. Meaning again, push and pull, Hans Hofmann. This color's kind of approaching your eye in a more dramatic and quick way than these whites which are rather quiet and certainly with that blue, which is very, very quiet, and kind of receding away from your eye. But then you have this interesting burgundy around here, which kind of accents that yellow's ability to do that, to kind of be displaced optically, visually off the two-dimensional surface of the painting. Finally I'd like to draw your attention to a very, very beautiful paint application on the top of the painting. You've heard me talk about how labored this paint surface is. Thin yes but many, many, many, many coats of paint, one after another after another after another. That's not the case up top. What you see is that blue color of the ground, which is yes brushy and somewhat of an admixture of different colors. But it's relatively straightforward and simple. And you see one tone applied over that. For that color to be read in the same level of complexity as everything else on this painting, which actually is physically, materially complex is an amazing feat of painting. It's something that looks easy and the difficulty is in just that, making it look so easy. To take one brush stroke, and it looks like he's gone perhaps back and forth two, three times, and have something that reads with the same level of visual pop. The same finish, the same elegance all the way around that form, including the way the brush picks up on the righthand side and has this little, crisp crackle at the end where there's an additional paint thickness because the brush deposits there as you're lifting the brush off the canvas. Everything about that reads with the same level of complexity as the rest of the painting, which is to say the painting still is allover, it's a little of-a-kind. But it's not. It's kind of an illusion because this is done with one color, one brush. Perhaps without even lifting the brush off the canvas until the end of each brush stroke. This is an incredible feat of painting. Something that when you try at home, if you get halfway there, you're doing pretty damn well.