Concealing and revealing: Visions of transcendence in Jan Van Eyck and Mark Rothko
Jan Van Eyck in The Ghent Altarpiece and Mark Rothko in his late abstractions sought to bridge the gap between the visible, palpable earthly world and the invisible, unknowable spiritual world to create an experience of transcendence for their viewers. Researching the critical and analytical data documenting these artists revealed that the two artists differ in the type of transcendence they intended to produce. Van Eyck sought religious transcendence, while Rothko sought a secular transcendence.
The interpretation of the works of these artists demonstrate that while both use symbolism, color, space, and light to convey their intentions, Van Eyck directly connects his religious imagery to Catholic dogma, seeking to provide his viewers with the comfort of God’s salvation. Rothko, using abstraction to convey existential and global considerations, uses a secular approach that eliminates a connection to a specific religion, taking his viewers inward to find universal significance.