Mark Rothko, Russian/American (1903-1970)

Russian-born American painter, Mark Rothko, moved to the United States with his family at age ten. In 1923, after only two years of schooling, Rothko dropped out of Yale University and continued his art studies at the Art Students’ League under teacher Max Webber. Regardless of this training, he considered himself to be a largely self-taught painter.

Rothko was an important figurehead of the Abstract Expressionist movement as well as one of the founders of Color Field painting. In the 1930’s and 40’s, he borrowed influence from Expressionism and Surrealism, until coming upon the maturation of his own personal and distinctive style around 1947. He dealt with expansive, loose edged, rectangular fields of color arranged parallel to one another. According to Rothko, the paintings were supposed to be reminiscent of human emotion and not a statement about color relationships.

His desired result was to evoke to the audience the emotion that he was feeling at the time of the painting’s creation. In 1961 Rothko was given a retrospective exhibition at the Museum of Modern Art in New York. Shortly following the exhibition, he fell into a state of depression, taking up drinking, and becoming weary of life and his role in the art world. Vivid colors seemed to vanish from Rothko’s work, replaced by blacks, browns, and maroons. He took his own life in his studio.


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