Rothko Painting Defaced: Of Course It Was

By Evan Mantyk
Epoch Times Staff
Created: October 26, 2012 Last Updated: October 29, 2012
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Defaced Rothko painting "Black on Maroon." (Public Domain)

Defaced Rothko painting "Black on Maroon." (Public Domain)


NEW YORK—Earlier this month, a man walked into the Tate Modern, in London. He walked up to a painting by modern artist Mark Rothko. The painting “Black on Maroon” consists, more or less, of two lines and is valued at about $80 million.

Next, the man wrote his name on the painting in black paint and wrote “a potential piece of Yellowism.”
The man, Vladimir Umanets, had dreamed up Yellowism as the latest movement in aesthetics and suggested that his scribble would in fact increase the value of the work, according to the U.K.’s Mail Online. He was later arrested.

Could anyone guess Umanets would deface the Rothko? Of course we could. Umanets took Rothko’s painting, which itself is nothing more than a scribble, and scribbled on it. He took Rothko’s own specious movement, abstract expressionism, to its logical end.  

An organic reading of history will tell us that a civilization, a people and its culture, is an organism. It will have its golden age and then will decline and be replaced by another, just as people grow old and die.
Ancient Greek and Roman civilizations left us artworks of perfection before their civilizations ultimately declined, like any organism. Our modern civilization reached its cultural prime and is now heading toward death. The emergence of modern art in the last century or so is like a cancerous tumor with the cancerous cells spreading at an accelerating pace toward the end.

Sounds terrible, right? But, there’s hope. For example, one of the most acclaimed French masters of the 19th century, William Bouguereau, will have one of his works “La Branche de Cerisier” (“The Cherry Branch”) on auction at Sotheby’s next month.

William Bouguereau’s “La Branche de Cerisier” (“The Cherry Branch”), 1881, presale estimate $1.5 million to $2 million. (Courtesy of Sotheby’s)

William Bouguereau’s “La Branche de Cerisier” (“The Cherry Branch”), 1881, presale estimate $1.5 million to $2 million. (Courtesy of Sotheby’s)

While this is not one of Bouguereau’s best works it displays a high level of skill and rich subject matter far beyond Rothko’s “Black on Maroon.” Yet, the Bouguereau’s “La Branche de Cerisier” is estimated to go for only $1.5-$2 million in the auction—a far cry from the $80 million at which Rothko’s work is valued.

To those who still believe in greatness and humanity, I implore you, bid up Bouguereau’s vastly undervalued “La Branche de Cerisier”! And do it soon, before more than just a Rothko painting gets destroyed by the unforgiving hand turning history’s page.

Evan Mantyk is president of the Society of Classical Poets ( as well as a longtime writer and editor for The Epoch Times.

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  • Ivan Pentchoukov

    This is great – an awakened view on modern art.


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