The Rothko Room at The Phillips Collection

Roy Herndon Smith

. . . the space was commissioned for the paintings.
―wall text outside The Rothko Room at The Phillips Collection

The kind of writing we need today is for people to write their responses to painting. To rake in themselves to be able to verbalize what . . . the paintings really mean to them.
―Mark Rothko

1 Room

entering stillness
falling into muted light
raking in silence
resonating tones
falling into flowing shades
of slow shifting moods

2 Green and Tangerine on Red

fall up in green moods
down in tangerine stillness
in tawny red shades
in filtered red light
feathering tangerine tones
under green silence

3 Ochre and Red on Red

in ochre silence
intimacy of red moods
deepening red tones
in ochre stillness
dissolving into red light
dulling in red shades

4 Green and Maroon

dusky maroon shades
under white stretch of silence
under deep green light
towering green moods
pressing breath of white stillness
into grey blue tones

5 Orange and Red on Red

breathing orange tones
into flesh’s blood red shades
in bright red stillness
pulsing red silence
freeing fiery red moods
in womb’s orange light

6 After

looking out at light
at a window of warm tones
breaking night’s cool moods
looking out at shades
at a window of silence
recalling stillness

light departing shades
tones dissipating silence
moods of lost stillness


. . . silence is so accurate.
―Mark Rothko

I’m interested only in expressing basic human emotions: tragedy, ecstasy, doom, and so on.
―Mark Rothko

I paint very large pictures . . . precisely because I want to be intimate . . . However you paint the larger picture, you are in it. It isn’t something you command.
―Mark Rothko

It is really a matter of ending this silence and solitude, of breathing, and stretching one’s arms again.
―Mark Rothko

Any shape or area that has not the pulsating concreteness of real flesh and bones, its vulnerability to pleasure or pain is nothing at all. Any picture that does not provide the environment in which the breath of life can be drawn does not interest me.
―Mark Rothko