No.14 1960 Mark Rothko

Mark Rothko – 7 Interesting Facts

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Mark Rothko (born Markus Rotkovich) is one of the principal figures associated with the Abstract Expressionist movement. A painter of Russian Jewish descent, he immigrated with his family to the United States when he was a child. Aside from being known as one of the most famous post-war American artists, here are the following interesting facts:

1. His early works were influenced by surrealism.

  • Rothko painted scenes of urban life using figurative, biomorphic forms that represented otherworldly creatures and plants.
  • After World War II, he focused on interpretations of ancient myth and religion, as well as timeless themes of death and survival.
Mark Rothko 1949 Yorktown Heights Portrait by Consuelo Kanaga
A portrait of Mark Rothko taken by American Photographer Consuelo Kanaga in 1949

2. Rothko pioneered what became known as “colorfield painting.”

  • His signature style consisted of rectangles of vibrant color and light that seemed to be floating against a colored background.
  • This formula allowed Rothko to create different moods and effects using variations of color and proportion.
No.8 1952 Mark Rothko
No.8, 1952, a bright and lively oil on canvass work by Mark Rothko

3. The colors in his works seem to glow from within.

  • Rothko painted colors in thin, layered washes that dissolve into one another and create a very subtle coloration for the rest of the painting.
  • Even the “black” used in his later works has flashes of color from underneath. This is not actually black, but darker colors placed on top or next to a different color.
No.14 1960 Mark Rothko
No.14, 1960, features more somber tones of black and red

4. Rothko valued individual, personal experience in viewing his art.

  • His works were painted on large, vertical canvases which were intended to be viewed up close and give the viewer a sense of being engulfed by them and sharing emotions with the painter.
  • Though critics have praised his style, Rothko considered color as merely an instrument while his true focus is “only in expressing basic human emotions — tragedy, ecstasy, doom, and so on”.
Blue and Grey 1962 Mark Rothko
Blue and Grey, 1962, oil on canvass work by Mark Rothko

5. His greatest fear was having his works seen as purely decorative.

  • Rothko suggested to view his paintings with one’s mind free of any aesthetic consideration. He did not want his works to be considered beautiful, but moving and awe-inspiring.
  • It was suspected that he turned down what would have been his most lucrative commission because his murals would be used merely for display purposes.

6. Rothko’s works (and life) veered towards darkness.

  • He suffered from depression and started painting in darker colors during the later stages of his career.
  • Some would say Rothko’s new color palette was an omen of his suicide in 1970.
Untitled (Red) 1970 Mark Rothko
Untitled (Red), 1970, the latter years of Rothko’s career was characterized by a more solid use of hues such as red and black

7. His works continue to be greatly coveted.

  • Rothko had over 800 paintings in his personal possession which became the center of an extended legal battle after his death.
  • In 2012, his painting “Orange, Red, Yellow” sold for $86.9 million, making it one of the most expensive post-war paintings sold at an auction.
No.5:No.22 1949-50 Mark Rothko
No.5/No.22, 1949-50, following his colorfield series with orange hues, oil on canvass by Rothko

Though he refused to be associated with any art movement, Mark Rothko has left a legacy that makes him one of the most celebrated painters in America. His emphasis on raw human emotion continues to make an impact to this day.

References

WikiArt.org
Biography.com
TheCultureTrip.com

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