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Mark Rothko: Paintings on Paper

Past Exhibition

November 19, 2023 – March 31, 2024
East Building Mezzanine and Upper Level

Notice for visitors:

This exhibition is popular, and you may need to join a line on weekends and busier days. Please enter the exhibition on the East Building Mezzanine. Independently led groups are not permitted.

Joy, despair, ecstasy, tragedy: these are some of the themes that Mark Rothko sought to express in his luminous art. Rothko is renowned for his towering abstract paintings on canvas, but few people know that he also created nearly 1,000 paintings on paper over the course of his career. He viewed many of these as finished paintings in their own right—not simply preliminary studies intended for his own eyes. These remarkable works challenge our expectations about what “counts” as painting, as well as popular ideas about Rothko and his career.

This exhibition brings together more than 100 of Rothko’s most compelling paintings on paper, many on view for the first time. They range from early figurative subjects and surrealist works to the soft-edged rectangular fields, often realized at monumental scale, for which Rothko is best known. Together, these radiant, rarely displayed paintings transform our understanding of one of the preeminent artists of the 20th century.

Selected Works


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Organized by the National Gallery of Art, Washington

The exhibition is curated by Adam Greenhalgh, associate curator, National Gallery of Art.

Other venues
The National Museum of Art, Architecture and Design, Norway, May 16–September 22, 2024

The exhibition is made possible through the generous support of Lugano Diamonds.

Major support is also provided by the Annenberg Fund for the International Exchange of Art and the Director's Circle of the National Gallery of Art.

Additional support is provided by the Kim and Jon Shirley Foundation and the Terra Foundation for American Art.

Admission is always free and passes are not required

Banner detail: Mark Rothko, Untitled, 1959, oil on Whatman illustration board, Private collection. Copyright © 2023 Kate Rothko Prizel and Christopher Rothko 

The copyright holders are represented by Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York.