The Musée des Impressionnismes hosts a show comparing two giants of modernity, highlighting their elective affinities.
Mark Rothko (1903-1970), Untitled, 1957. Washington, National Gallery of Art
© 1998 by Kate Rothko Prizel & Christopher Rothko - ADAGP, Paris, 2022
This is the first time that so many paintings by Mark Rothko, a leading figure of American abstract art, have been presented in France since the 1999 exhibition at the Musée d'Art moderne de la Ville de Paris. After three years of work, negotiations and a pandemic, Cyrille Sciama, director of the Musée des Impressionnismes, will exhibit six made in the 1950s from prestigious museums—London’s Tate Gallery, the Houston Museum of Fine Arts and the National Gallery in Washington D.C.—in a sensitive comparison with seven late works by Claude Monet. The carefully designed exhibition gives the three rooms a hushed atmosphere conducive to contemplation. It highlights the ability of both artists to immerse viewers in the abstract, dizzying meanderings of color. Monet's medium-sized canvases give the impression of iridescent atmospheres, as in Charing Cross Bridge, Smoke in the Fog, Impression (1902) or a dive into the elusive chromatic interlacing, as in Japanese Bridge (1918-1924). Rothko’s paintings are more monumental, with iconic, hypnotizing flat areas of color. Rethinking space, the paintings give viewers an experience outside time. An example is Light Red over Black or Untitled (1957), whose incredible blue-green tones invite introspection. “Direct awareness of an essential humanity can be found in my work,” Rothko told painter Alfred Jansen. “Monet had this quality, and that is why I prefer him to Cézanne.” The works strengthen each other, while the exhibition’s chromatic and thematic sequence highlights the elective affinity between the two masters. This unprecedented show captures the infinite, structuring and vibrant power of color.