The recipe of a work of art - its ingredients - how to make it - the formula:
1. There must be a clear preoccupation with death-intimations of mortality … Tragic art, romantic art, etc. deals with the knowledge of death.
2. Sensuality. Our basis of being concrete about the world. It is a lustful relationship to things that exist.
3. Tension. Either conflict or curbed desire.
4. Irony. This is a modern ingredient - the self effacement and examination by which a man for an instant can go on to something else.
5. Wit and play … for the human element.
6. The ephemeral and chance … for the human element.
7. Hope. 10 percent to make the tragic concept more endurable.
I measure these ingredients very carefully when I make a picture. It is always the form that follows these elements and the picture results from the proportions of these elements.
- from a lecture by Mr. Rothko at the Pratt Institute in 1958