Black on Maroon

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Black on Maroon
ArtistMark Rothko
TypeOil paint, acrylic paint, glue tempera and pigment on canvas
Dimensions266.7 cm × 381.2 cm (105 in × 150 in)
LocationTate Modern, London

Black on Maroon is a mixed media painting by Mark Rothko, created in 1958. It is housed at the Tate Modern, in London.


The painting comes from a series of three canvases painted by Rothko in 1958–59, produced in the Seagram murals commission for The Four Seasons Restaurant,[1] in New York's Seagram Building on Park Avenue.

Rothko's original conception for the work became increasingly sombre. He later said, "After I had been at work for some time I realised that I was much influenced subconsciously by Michelangelo's walls in the staircase room of the Medicean Library in Florence. He achieved just the kind of feeling I'm after ..."[2]

The murals were eventually withheld from installation at the restaurant, reportedly because Rothko did not think it was an appropriate setting for the works.[2] In 1965 he suggested making them a gift to the Tate Gallery; this was finalised in 1969.[2] On the day of their delivery in 1970, Rothko was found dead in his studio.[2]

Related defacement[edit]

On 7 October 2012 another work from the same series, also titled Black on Maroon, was defaced with writing in black paint.[3] The perpetrator told the BBC "I'm not a vandal" and compared himself with surrealist artist Marcel Duchamp, adding "Art allows us to take what someone's done and put a new message on it." It was later revealed that the man was Polish national Wlodzimierz Umaniec. His addition to the painting had included his name and the number 12, followed by the sentence: "a potential piece of yellowism".[4] The following day Umaniec was arrested on suspicion of causing criminal damage.[5] During the trial, prosecutor Gregor McKinley said the repair would cost £200,000.[1]

On 13 December 2012 Umaniec was sentenced at Inner London Crown Court to two years in jail. Judge Roger Chapple told him that his actions had been "entirely deliberate, planned and intentional". Talking about "yellowism" Judge Chapple added that it was "wholly and utterly unacceptable to promote it by damaging a work of art" which he called a "gift to the nation".[6]

The BBC's Arts Editor Will Gompertz explained that the ink from Umaniec's marker caused "a deep wound, not a superficial graze", and that the vandal had caused "significant damage".[7] In order to work out how best to restore the painting conservators created a replica of the damaged work and tested various solvents.[1] It was estimated that restoration of the painting might take up to 18 months to complete, as the many layers applied by Rothko would have to be replicated individually.[7] In May 2014 the restored painting was returned to public display[1] and Umaniec offered a public apology, saying: "I apologise to [the] British people for what I did. I suppose I wanted to change the art world but of course I did it in a very, very wrong way. I spent almost a year and a half in prison and the British people have paid huge restoration costs, so it definitely wasn't worth doing it, and I'm sure the restoration team has done a wonderful job and I encourage everyone to see the restored picture."[8]


  1. ^ a b c d "Mark Rothko work goes back on display after vandalism". BBC News. 13 May 2014. Retrieved 14 May 2014.
  2. ^ a b c d "Mark Rothko: Black on Maroon 1958, "Illustrated companion"". Retrieved 13 December 2012., from: Wilson, S., 1991, "Tate Gallery: An Illustrated Companion", Tate Gallery, London, (revised edition 1991) p.215
  3. ^ Tweet from witness of defacement
  4. ^ "Defacing Rothko painting 'not vandalism'". BBC News London. 8 October 2012. Retrieved 31 December 2012.
  5. ^ Mark Rothko painting defacement: Man arrested at
  6. ^ "Mark Rothko Tate Modern painting damage man jailed" at
  7. ^ a b "Rothko damage 'could take up to 18 months to repair'". BBC News. 21 November 2012. Retrieved 13 December 2012.
  8. ^ Adam Sherwin (14 May 2014). "Vandalised Rothko painting back on display at Tate Modern after 18-month repair job - News - Art". The Independent. Retrieved 27 May 2014.

External links[edit]