In 1961 the Whitechapel Gallery held the first solo show of American artist Mark Rothko in Britain. This exhibition saw Rothko outline precise instructions of how he wanted his work to be displayed which made his paintings into an immersive environment. It is celebrated on its 50th anniversary through an archive display of original photographs, letters from the artist and recordings of visitors memories presented alongside the painting Light Red Over Black (1957).
Mark Rothko (1903–1970) was part of a generation of American painters whose style became known as Abstract Expressionism. From the 1950s he used muted colours to make luminous rectangles seemingly hover on the surface of the canvas.
Presented in the display are exclusive interviews with people who knew Rothko, including artists Paul Feiler, Patrick Heron, John Hoyland and William Turnbull.
They shed new light on Rothko’s connection with Britain and highlight the strong relationships he formed during his trip in the summer of 1959, an era of intense dialogue between British and American artists.