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In the mid-1930s Mark Rothko began a series of works with subjects derived from the urban experience that became known as the Subway series. These paintings reflect the artist's sense of isolation, shared by many at the time, that resulted from the harsh social conditions caused by the Great Depression. Although figurative, these paintings accentuate the geometry underlying the elements of the city's infrastructure and thus prefigure Rothko's later concentration on rectangular shapes of luminous colors in his celebrated abstract paintings.

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