At the early stage of his signature style in abstract art, Mark Rothko made many proposals for positioning the blue. This color is far from appearing in most of his works but it brings in alternance with the black the very sense of tragic expression that the artist was endeavoring to forward.
When the blue rectangular area is in the lower side of the picture, it wins a stability that reduces the role of the other colors like if it is the monarch in the battlefield. Rothko seeks which color can resist.
Taking advantage of a very low position of the blue, a deep red distributed in several shades almost won the game in the splendid No. 1 painted in 1954, 289 x 172 cm, which was sold for $ 75M including premium by Sotheby's on November 13, 2012.
The artist finds another competitor in the same year in a dark bright yellow. Blue stubbornly defends its position by invading almost the entire available width in an exception to the usual principles of the artist's composition.
This oil on canvas 243 x 187 cm is estimated $ 40M for sale by Sotheby's in New York on May 12, lot 11. After the death of Rothko, this painting belonged to the Mellon collection that once included the best set of works by this artist in private hands.
The tragedy of the blue did not stop at that point. In 1955, it managed to dominate the top of the image within an oil on canvas 169 x 125 cm sold for $ 55M including premium by Phillips on 15 May 2014.
I invite you to play the video shared by Sotheby's.