The landscape is one of arts most enduring subject matters–however, depending on the artist and period, the execution of a landscape has been ever changing. When looking at Mark Rothko’s mid 20th century color-field paintings, the viewer almost steps inside of it into an abstracted landscape. Detached from the material world and without any context, the viewer mind is left able to project any scene onto the canvas. The colors on the canvas provide the only boundaries for the landscape. The color which are painted mostly in two sections, form a horizon line that separates the sky and the earth or water below. The Rothko colorfield paintings allow the viewer to create their own ideal landscape by leaving the subject matter vague and open to their own projections.
Conversely, German artist Gerhard Richter’s late 20th-century photorealistic landscapes are seemingly the antithesis of Rothko’s. Richter’s landscapes, however, still have the same painterly and abstract quality about them like Rothko’s color fields. Richter’s landscape show you one specific scene in such a realistic way that they are almost crossing into unrealistic territory. This connection between the totally abstract Rothko landscape and the photorealistic Richter one can be easily made when an examples of each artist’s landscape are viewed next to each other. For example, when looking at the first painting in this below and Mark Rothko’s completely black canvas from the Rothko Chapel, the viewer can see into the painting and see the exact scene that Richter paints to the right.
The connections between the genius abstract painter and the master painter of realism are more than what meets the eye.