By 1949 Rothko had introduced a compositional format that he would continue to develop throughout his career. Comprised of several vertically aligned rectangular forms set within a colored field, Rothko's image lent itself to a remarkable diversity of appearances. In these works, large scale, open structure and thin layers of color combine to convey the impression of a shallow pictorial space. Color, for which Rothko's work is perhaps most celebrated, here attains an unprecedented luminosity. His classic paintings of the 1950s are characterized by expanding dimensions and an increasingly simplified use of form, brilliant hues, and broad, thin washes of color. In his large floating rectangles of color, which seem to engulf the spectator, he explored with a rare mastery of nuance the expressive potential of color contrasts and modulations, taking this idea into an almost endless series of different combinations of form and colour over several decades.
The warm tones of red, orange and yellow were certainly amongst the artist's favourites, for they would appear within a huge number of paintings. They were ideally suited to his Color Field approach, as underlined by Orange and Tan as displayed here. Other examples of this would be the likes of Orange, Red, Yellow, Orange and Yellow and Untitled (Red). He would in his later life alternate between bright and dark palettes, leaving behind a truly diverse series of work when you also consider his earlier work in Surrealism and Expressionism. Many who are knew to his career are only aware of his Color Field artworks, but in truth there is so much more to enjoy from his overall oeuvre.
The National Gallery of Art in the US own this painting from 1954 amongst one of the finest collections of art in the world. They actually own a huge number of paintings from his career, including a large number from the earlier periods in which he was working in all manner of other styles that many are not aware of. Their collection is such an incredible size that it would be impossible to have it all out on display at the same time, and so items are regularly rotated between the main gallery and the storage areas. They also loan in and out a number of artworks from all manner of different artists from time to time in order to allow more of the public to take advantage of their wide selection of work, much of which was gifted to them by generous private individuals and so they feel obligated to make it as accessible as possible.