365 Days of Art: October 7 – Lover’s Death Inspires Hartley Portrait, Rothko Painting Vandalized

Marsden Hartley, Portrait of a German Officer, 1914

Marsden Hartley, Portrait of a German Officer, 1914

October 7, 1914

Marsden Hartley’s lover, Karl von Freyburg, dies in World War I; his death inspires Hartley to paint Portrait of a German Officer.

Vandalism of Mark Rothko's Black on Maroon

Vandalism of Mark Rothko’s Black on Maroon

October 7, 2012

Art vandal Wlodzimierz Umaniec uses indelible, dripping ink to scribble his name and a slogan (“12 a potential piece of yellowism”) on Rothko’s 1958 painting Black On Maroon at the Tate in London. Wlodzimierz, who compares himself to Marcel Duchamp and claims he improved the work and its value, goes to jail for two years. Despite initial doubts that the piece could be saved, conservation experts work some real magic and the painting, one of the Seagram murals, goes back on display about two years later, to the delight of the Tate and Rothko’s family.

The damage to the work is especially wrenching because the painting has a special place in art history. Rothko personally donates the painting to the Tate, and it arrives at the museum on the day Rothko commits suicide.