Mark Rothko Facts

Mark Rothko was an abstract painter from America.

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Facts About Mark Rothko

  • Mark Rothko was born in Latvia (at the time part of the Russian Empire) in 1903 as Markus Yakovlevich Rothkowitz.
  • He moved to the US with his family in 1913.
  • By the age of 17, he could speak four languages – Lithuanian Yiddish, Hebrew, Russian and English.
  • He received a scholarship to Yale, but he dropped out at the end of his sophomore year.
  • He became interested in art after watching one of his friends, who was a member of the Art Students League of New York, sketch a model.
  • He studied at the Parsons School for Design in New York. One of his teachers was the artist Arshile Gorky.
  • Mark Rothko was also taught at the Art Students League by Max Weber, a Cubist artist.
  • In 1929, Mark Rothko brought in extra money by teaching art lessons at the Brooklyn Jewish Center to school children.
  • He married Edith Sachar, a jewellery designer in 1932.
  • At his first solo exhibition, held at the Portland Art Museum, he displayed the work of his pupils alongside his own work.
  • Mark Rothko was Jewish, and during World War 2 he became an American citizen and changed his name from Markus Rothkowitz to Mark Rothko.
  • He was keen to study the ‘dramatic themes of man’ and he read The Golden Bough by James George Frazer, Sigmund Freud’s The Interpretation of Dreams, work by Carl Jung, and The Birth of Tragedy by Friedrich Nietzsche. He also read books by James Joyce, TS Eliot, and Thomas Mann.
  • He was not a fan of the Pop Art works of Andy Warhol, Roy Lichtenstein, James Rosenquist, and Jasper Johns.
  • He spent six years designing and producing artwork for the Rothko Chapel in Houston, Texas. Due to failing health, he was unable to paint the chapels numerous massive panels himself, and he instead relied on two assistants to apply the paint under his instruction. Rothko does before the chapel’s opening in 1971.
  • Mark Rothko died in 1970 at the age of 66. He had taken his own life.
  • A play about Rothko’s life called Red opened in London in 2009. It starred Eddie Redmayne and Alfred Molina.
  • President Bill Clinton and Hillary Rodham Clinton went to the Yale University Art Gallery’s Mark Rothko exhibition in 1970 as their first date.
  • His paintings routinely sell for many millions of dollars. In 2012, for example, his painting Orange, Red, Yellow sold at auction for $86,000,000.
  • He had two children, Kate Rothko and Christopher Rothko.

A painting is not a picture of an experience, but is the experience.

Mark Rothko

What is Mark Rothko’s art style?

The evolution of Mark Rothko’s art style and the approach to his work is often divided into different eras.

During his early period (1924-1939) he produced mostly representational work (often of urban scenes). In his transitional period (1940-1950), his work became more abstract, and he experimented with biomorphic abstraction (abstract shapes that evoke living forms), and large regions of colour. His classic period (1951-1970) is characterized by his paintings featuring large rectangles of colour.

Mark Rothko didn’t believe his paintings were abstract. He believed they possessed their own meaning, and that they were an expression of human emotions.

I’m not an abstractionist. I’m not interested in the relationship of color or form or anything else. I’m interested only in expressing basic human emotions: tragedy, ecstasy, doom, and so on

Mark Rothko

According to his son, Christopher Rothko

My father’s works became simpler and simpler because he found a more direct way to say what he had to say, and yet many people, almost 50 years on, still find his works perplexing. The reason they’re confused is that he only paints half the picture in a sense. You have to bring the rest to make the meaning of it specific for you.

Chritsopher Rothko (Mark Rothko’s son)

How many paintings did Mark Rothko paint?

Mark Rothko completed 836 paintings on canvas

What inspired Mark Rothko?

Some of Mark Rothko’s early influences were the surrealist art of Paul Klee, the paintings of George Rouault, the works of the German Expressionists, and the work of Max Weber (a Cubist artist and one of Rothko’s art instructors).

He was initially influenced by the artists Adolph Gottlieb, Barnett Newman, Joesph Soloman, Louis Schanker, John Graham, and Milton Avery, and the artistic movements of Surrealism, Cubism, and abstract art.

In his transitional period, he admired the work of Clyfford Still, and the work called Red Studio by Henri Matisse.