The painting is from top to bottom, a yellow horizontal rectangle, a black horizontal strip, a narrow white rectangular band and the bottom half is lavender. The top half of the rose ground is deeper in colour and the bottom half is pale. White Center is often referred to as White Center (yellow pink and lavender on rose) and it measures 205.8 x 141 cm. Mark Rothko continued to simplify the compositional elements of his paintings. In 1950, he began to divide the canvas into horizontal bands of color. Despite the frontal composition and absence of spatial illusionism in these works, the broad bands of color appear simultaneously to float in front of the picture plane and to merge with the color field upon which they are place, as in White Center (yellow pink and lavender on rose), 1950.
A luminosity results from the repeated layering of thin washes of paint, which allows some underpainting to show through the upper coats. In each work of this period, Rothko sought only subtle variations in proportion and color, yet achieved within this limited format a broad range of emotions and moods. The photo at the top displays this painting's supreme color choices, namely yellow, pink and lavender on rose. The work was sold in May 2007 by Sotheby's on behalf of David Rockefeller to the Royal family of Qatar; Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa Al-Thani, and his wife, Sheikha Mozah bint Nasser Al-Missned. The painting sold for 72.84 million (USD), setting the record of the current most expensive post-war work of art sold at auction.
The colour field movement would commence in the 1940s and so by the time this painting was completed, it had already been flourishing for several years. Rothko was to become the most famous member of this group, but was far from the only member of it. He also worked in other styles earlier in his career but these tend to be forgotten within most exhibitions of his work. Some of the artist's most significant paintings came at around the same time as White Center (Yellow, Pink and Lavender on Rose), with this untitled painting from 1952, as well as Rust and Blue from a year later. It is clear that Rothko played a significant role in developing American art and encouraging others to join the contemporary art scene which was truly flourishing.
The artist's intention with this style of painting was always to engulf the viewer in colour. He wanted us to stand for sometime looking at each of his paintings, rather than simply looking quickly as we pass by. Taking more time will help us to appreciate his work in person, as many of these colour field paintings also have different techniques used across the canvas that you perhaps would not be aware of from smaller photographs of the original. The use of bright, contrasting colours such as yellow, purple and white has made this a popular choice as an art print reproduction too. The same can also be said for Orange and Yellow and Orange, Red, Yellow, which contain a similar level of brightness and saturation. Despite the qualities of the painting that we discuss in this section, it has been used less frequently in exhibitions than many of his related paintings. Many of Rothko's work would intially be seen in smaller local galleries within New York before being unveiled in larger institutions later on. It was important for the artist not to just focus on fame with his career and remain humble throughout.
As is typical of the artist, the back of the canvas is signed and dated. The painting measures 81 x 55 1/2 in. (205.8 x 141 cm). According to the records that remain on this piece, it seems to have only left the United States once, prior to being purchased at auction in 2007. It was featured in an exhibition in the late 1990s that travelled around to Washington DC, New York, and then Paris, at the Musée d'Art Moderne. Prior to that it had appeared in an exhibition in Buffalo, 1960, and then Massachusetts in 1985. Much of this information is from the catalogue raisonne of 1998 which has been revised recently. This lack of exposure left the piece relatively unknown until the extraordinary price was achieved at auction in 2007. This has also drawn attention from the mass media, who always seem interested in high priced sales, sometimes forgetting about the quality of the specific artwork itself.
White Center appeared just as Rothko had found in way - this style would then continue to the way to 1970, with the likes of Untitled (Black on Grey), which was amongst his final pieces. Having experimented considerably throughout his career, particularly in the early periods when he was learning at a ferocious pace, he seemed contented with the Colour Field approach and would only make subtle changes in the two decades that followed White Center. Academics have described this piece as a masterpiece, an example of how Rothko was in the early stages of maturity as an artist. They specifically have approved of the size and intensity of this piece which absorbs you whole. He had moved slowly towards abstration, little by little, in a similar way found in the careers of artists like Miro and Mondrian. One new to his career only sees this end result, rather than the considerable journey that had been travelled in order to get to this point.