At the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, an immersive display of 11 masterpieces by Mark Rothko (1903–70), on loan from the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C., invites visitors to contemplate the power of art to shape human experience. The installation opens with a juxtaposition of Rothko’s early painting Thru the Window (1938), on public view in the U.S. for the first time, and Artist in his Studio (about 1628) by Rembrandt (1606–1669), from the MFA’s collection—both portraits of artists reflecting on the act of painting.
Contrary to notions that Rothko’s work represented a dramatic break from past traditions, the side-by-side comparison positions him within the broader history of Western art. The additional 10 Rothko paintings showcase the full sweep of his career—from early surrealist work to multiform compositions to classic color field paintings—and trace his exploration of the expressive potential of color. Enveloped by the large-scale paintings in an intimate setting, viewers can experience Rothko’s work as the artist had originally intended.