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Rothko’s Seagram Murals come to Tate St Ives for the first time this summer

  • April 3, 2024
  • 2 min read
Rothko’s Seagram Murals come to Tate St Ives for the first time this summer

Mark Rothko’s Seagram Murals are pivotal works in the history of modern art and are among the most celebrated paintings in Tate’s collection. For the first time, five of these works will go on show at Tate St Ives, in a new display opening on 25th May, 2024.

These mural-sized canvases were originally commissioned for the fashionable Four Seasons restaurant in New York’s Seagram building, designed by Mies van der Rohe. They marked a shift away from the bright colours of his earlier paintings towards maroon, dark red and black. Rothko wished to create a deep connection between the viewer and his works, stating: ‘I am interested only in expressing basic human emotions – tragedy, ecstasy, doom, and so on.’

In 1959, Rothko took a break from painting the Seagram Murals to travel to Europe with his family. At the invitation of Peter Lanyon, he visited St Ives as it was becoming widely recognised as an important artists’ community. There he met with other modernist painters including Terry Frost, Paul Feiler and Alan Davie.

Upon his return to the United States, Rothko decided that a restaurant would not be an appropriate location for his paintings. He withdrew from the commission, returned his fee, and donated nine of the works to Tate in 1969.

They have since been shown in various numbers and configurations at Tate Britain, Tate Modern and Tate Liverpool, always in accordance with the hanging height, lighting and wall colour recommended by the artist. Five of these iconic works will now be seen for the first time at Tate St Ives, in the Cornish town Rothko visited shortly after completing them.

The display coincides with Tate St Ives’s major summer exhibition of another renowned abstract painter – Beatriz Milhazes: Maresias.

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Emma Trehane

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