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Mark Rothko, American, 1903–1970No. 8 (Lilac and Orange over Ivory)1953Oil on canvasGift of William S. Rubin; P.961.123No. 8 (Lilac and Orange overIvory)is a prime example ofMark Rothko’s signature compo-sitional style. Spare and frontal,his painting format is consistent:simple rectangular forms definedby luminous, atmospheric colorsare stacked two or three high,nearly filling the canvas.Characteristically, the canvas islarge in scale, so as to create anintimate experience for the view-er. Rothko’s paintings weremeant to be seen in relativelyclose environments, so that theviewer was virtually enveloped bythe experience of confronting thework. As the artist wrote, “Ipaint big to be intimate.” Rothko was an abstractexpressionist and, later in hiscareer, part of the Color Fieldmovement. He believed in theexpressive potential of color andwanted his glowing, soft-edgedrectangles to provoke in viewersa quasi-religious experience. InRothko’s words, these worksexpress “basic human emotions—tra...