An Analysis of Mark Rothko’s 1938 Painting “Subway Scene”

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Mark Rothko was an American artist who often painted abandoned city environments in an expressionistic style. Subway Scene (1938) is a painting of a subway station that features various figures, including a police officer, a ticket booth attendant, and people passing through turnstiles and stairs. The painting lacks detailing and modeling, giving the figures a flat, two-dimensional appearance. The use of cool colors such as grays and blues distances the viewer from the scene, while the rough brushwork emphasizes color over detail. Rothko’s repeated use of vertical lines and objects such as pillars and railings further segregates the figures from each other and the viewer. The implied viewer position is situated far back from the ticket booth and figures on the descending stairs, adding to the feeling of disaffection and eeriness in the painting.

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Rothko frequently painted abandoned metropolis environments following an expressionistic manner. Subway Scene ( 1938 ) is one such picture. It is the word picture of a subway station and characteristics: a police officer and another figure following to a figure in a ticket booth and some turnstiles ; two figures go throughing each other on some stepss falling to a lower degree ; a figure merely come ining into position via stairss to the dorsum left. There are besides four big pillars and a big set of railings.

There seems to be no tailing and modeling is hapless which makes it hard to turn up one single visible radiation beginning. It besides gives the figures a two dimensional visual aspect and makes them look vacant and sombre. The tonic scope is broad but the usage of cool colorss ( in peculiar Greies and blues ) has the consequence of distancing the witness from the scene. Furthermore. accent is placed on coloring material instead than item because the brushwork is rough. These factors lend the scene a cold and slightly eerie feeling.

Rothko’s repeated usage of perpendicular lines ( specifically the railings and pillars ) segregates the figures from one another and more significantly. from the witness. The imbrication of these objects gives the scene position. but along with the thought of segregation and a high image plane. this lone serves to farther distance the witness.

The two left most pillars are arranged in such a manner that they run parallel with the two right most pillars and with the wall at the back left of the scene. Furthermore the figures on the descending stairway and the figures around the ticket booth are along the same parallel plane and are framed within the pillars. The consequence is that the oculus is drawn towards the booth along this line. Possibly so it is no happenstance that the ticket booth besides seems to be the location for the vanishing point. These factors would propose that the implied witness place is farther back along the same line as the ticket booth and the figures on the descending steps.

Rothko uses the methods I have discussed to distance and segregate the witness from the scene. Along with his brushwork. lighting and pick of colors. this lends the painting an eerie atmosphere. As such. Subway Scene is a black and cold image that stresses a feeling of disaffection to the witness.

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An Analysis of Mark Rothko’s 1938 Painting “Subway Scene”. (2017, Nov 07). Retrieved from

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