Inspired by his readings of Friedrich Nietzsche who extolled and revered music, Rothko endeavored to portray the "most secret meaning" in his paintings. Following the path of artist's like James Abott McNeill Whistler, he found transcendental revelation in the intricate structures of musical composition. "...The young Rothko, had found immense emotional stimulation in listening to music. Rothko, who throughout his life not only listened to music but depended on it for solace, inspiration and release was peculiarly attuned to the Nietzschean vision of the importance of music. Herbert Ferber remembers him lying on the grass in Vermont listening with total attention to the whole of Don Giovanni, while Carlo Battaglia remembers Rothko stretched out on a leather couch in Rome, windows open wide above the Renaissance plaza, wakefully attending the same Mozart opera." (D. Ashton, About Rothko, New York, 1983, p. 52).
Untitled, 1959, with its somber tones offset by the deep crimson field, is a complex composition of nuanced hues. Combined, the clouds of color shift subtly in their density and tone creating an infinite space. Untitled is an ode to life and death--a requiem. Rothko strove to achieve an art without artifice that was true to the Nietzschean ideal put forth in The Birth of Tragedy which he deeply admired. It was Nietzsche's conceit that, "This deep relation which music has to the true nature of all things also explains the fact that suitable music played to any scene, action, event, or surrounding seems to disclose to us its most secret meaning. When the composer has been able to express in the universal language of music the stirrings of will which constitute the heart of an event, then the melody of the song, the music of an opera is expressive. But the analogy discovered by the composer between the two must have proceeded from the direct knowledge of the nature of the world unknown to his reason, and must not be an imitation produced with conscious intention by means of concepts, otherwise the music does not express the inner nature, the will itself, but merely gives an inadequate imitation of its phenomenon" (quoted in Ibid, pp. 53-54).