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Courtesy Walker Art Center
Copyright Estate of Mark Rothko / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York


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Mark Rothko
unframed 53.4375 × 39 × inches
oil, graphite on canvas
Not on view

Object Details

Paintings (Paintings)
Accession Number
verso in fushia colored paint UL “Mark Rothko Ritual” in black chalk “1944”; N.A.
Physical Description
Abstract forms that hint at a figure on a red/violet field.
Credit Line
Gift of The Mark Rothko Foundation, Inc., 1986

object label Mark Rothko, Ritual (1944) Walker Art Center, 1998

Ritual illustrates the strong visual connections between European Surrealism and the beginnings of Abstract Expressionism in the United States. Through the use of a Surrealist technique called psychic automatism–a kind of doodling where the artist lets impulse lead the way–Rothko created a field of freely floating geometric shapes and disconnected identifiable forms. Like Joan MirĂ³, whom the artist acknowledged as a powerful influence in his works, Rothko imitates the presence of the human figure through an imaginative composition of abstract signs: an ear replaces the head, and a series of lines arranged in a bulbous form marks the torso from which sinuous shapes jut like limbs. According to Rothko, these shapes do not have direct association with any particular visual experience and belong to a ritualistic realm associated with a transcendent world.

Label text for Mark Rothko, Ritual (1944), from the exhibition Selections from the Permanent Collection, Walker Art Center, Minneapolis, December 8, 1996 to April 4, 1999.

Copyright 1998 Walker Art Center