Mark Rothko (1903-1970)

(Lithuanian, Markus Rothkowitz)

Studied at Yale in the early 1920s, then from 1924-1929 at the Art Student’s League (NY). Founded the Expressionist group with Adolf Gottlieb the Tenth (1935). He is probably the most well known colour field painters. Like Pollock he too fitted well into the established canon of troubled (male) genius, committing suicide in 1970. [I do not wish to disparage Rothko’s death, but to point out the way in which it is used to define him as an artist] It may well be only respectively that we come to view Rothko’s expanses of colour as somewhat dark and troubled. We must be aware of how our knowledge of the artist’s life shares how we view their work.

“I think of my pictures as dramas; the shapes in the pictures are the performers. They have been created from the need for a group of actors who are able to move dramatically without embarrassment and execute gestures without shame. Neither the action nor the actors can be anticipated, or described in advance”*

Despite my better judgment, I can’t help but see a sense of self in these words, a feeling that Rothko uses his work, the very act of painting, as an escape, but also as an echo of (his) life.

Sources- Art of the 20th Century (Part 1: Painting, 2000, Taschen, p.798, *p. 293),

And don’t worry, I am getting round to the women who are  artists too, I’m saving them up as a treat (plus it’s harder to gather information on them as they are less famous/acknowledged)


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