Rothko in his 69th Street studio with Rothko Chapel murals, c. 1964, © Hans Namuth Estate, courtesy Center for Creative Photography, The University of Arizona
His work on the Rothko Chapel paintings, originally commissioned by John and Dominique de Menil for the University of St. Thomas in Houston, Texas, occupied Rothko between
1964 and 1967. In turning away from the radiance of the previous decade, Rothko heightened the
perceptual subtlety of his paintings, making distinctions between shape
and ground more difficult to discern. He also transformed the impact his
canvases have on the experience of space, which is now characterized by
a sensation of enclosure. This quality, which lends itself to
meditation, can be clearly related to the spiritual nature of a chapel.