We went to London to see Lucian Freud exhibition and I was overjoyed to find out that there was a Rothko exhibition going on as well. We took the tube to Whitechapel Gallery, and breathless I went straight to the first level to meet Rothko in person. There it was, dominating the room, one gigantic painting in red with bleeding edges over black. I didn't know what to think at first, there was only one painting, I looked at it impatiently, and then I checked the other rooms. No trace of other Rothko. I asked, and yes, there was only one piece. Who announces a Rothko exhibition and shows one piece... And though the one painting was the most amazing painting I have ever seen, it filled the room, the gallery, the whole London, and the whole world. It was one gigantic heart, bleeding and pulsating, waiting there in silence, like something terrible was going to happen. There was no peace, there was war, there was something extremely moving and tormenting, deep in myself. And there I was, crying, like for the whole world, for once not for myself, but for something vital, much larger and much more important than me, for something I couldn't understand.
"The fact that people break down and cry when confronted with my pictures shows that I can communicate those basic human emotions.. the people who weep before my pictures are having the same religious experience I had when painting them. And if you say you are moved only by their color relationships then you miss the point."
I'm not an abstractionist. I'm not interested in the relationship of color or form or anything else. I'm interested only in expressing basic human emotions: tragedy, ecstasy, doom, and so on."
"It was with the utmost reluctance that I found the figure could not serve my purposes. But a time came when none of us could use the figure without mutilating it."
"Since my pictures are large, colorful and unframed, and since museum walls are usually immense and formidable, there is the danger that the pictures relate themselves as decorative areas to the walls. This would be a distortion of their meaning, since the pictures are intimate and intense, and are the opposite of what is decorative."
"I paint very large pictures. I realize that historically the function of painting large pictures is painting something very grandiose and pompous. The reason I paint them, however – I think it applies to other painters I know – is precisely because I want to be very intimate and human. To paint a small picture is to place yourself outside your experience. However you paint the larger picture, you are in it."