Mark Rothko

Mark Rothko

1903-1970

Mark Rothko was born Marcus Rothkowitz in Russia and immigrated to the United States in 1913 with his family. He adopted the name Rothko in 1940, and legally changed it in 1958.

Rothko's abstract paintings was the result of years of examination of other artwork, including Greek vases with horizontal bands of figures, the spiritual qualities of Native American art and the European Surrealists. His preferred format in 1949 was an upright rectangular canvas or paper with two or three stacked rectangular forms varying in area but free of the picture edge. The coloured bands, which he felt must be sensuous or functional took on a wide range of hues to which Rothko added lightness or darkness, translucency or opacity, high or low saturation, smooth or brushy textures, and contrasts of colour area.

His work is sometimes compared with that of his teacher, Joseph Albers, although their paintings had little in common. Rothko's artwork was emotional, while Albers' was intellectual. As Rothko grew older his work darkened and his last paintings and large works on paper are simple and sombre, perhaps a metaphor for his decision to end his own life.

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