EUROPEAN & AMERICAN ART
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(accurate to +/- 18 hrs)
Latvia 1903 – United States of America 1970
Painting, oil on canvas
Primary Insc: no inscriptions
155.0 h x 118.7 w cm
Accession No: NGA 81.730
© Mark Rothko/ARS. Licensed by Viscopy
- estate of the artist;
- from whom bought, through The Pace Gallery, New York, by the Australian National Gallery, February 1981
Multiform 1948 is one of a small group of untitled works collectively known as 'Multiforms' that Rothko painted during the years 1947-49 immediately preceding the mature works for which he is best known. In these transitional paintings Rothko abandoned the Surrealist-inspired imagery of his earlier works to develop a fully abstract vocabulary. Writing in 1947, he described his paintings as 'dramas', but added that the use by contemporary artists of figurative subject-matter to convey emotions and experiences was no longer practicable; 'with us the disguise must be complete', he asserted. 'The familiar identity of things has to be pulverised in order to destroy the finite associations with which our society increasingly enshrouds every aspect of our environment'.1
The title 'Multiform' does not seem to have been used before Rothko's death. It appears for the first time in the catalogue for the Rothko exhibition at the 1970 Venice Biennale. It is thought by the staff of the Marlborough Gallery, who prepared this catalogue, that Rothko used the term 'Multiform' generically when referring to his transitional paintings of 1948-49.2
Michael Lloyd & Michael Desmond European and American Paintings and Sculptures 1870-1970 in the Australian National Gallery 1992 p.248.
- Mark Rothko, 'The Romantics Were Prompted'. Possibilities no. 1, Winter 1947-48, p.84.
- The authors are grateful to Bonnie Clearwater, Curator of the Rothko Foundation, for providing this information. (Bonnie Clearwater, correspondence with the Australian National Gallery, 12 July 1984).
Text © National Gallery of Australia, Canberra 2010