Monday, April 4, 2011

Mark Rothko

A Mark Rothko painting is usually identified as a large abstract painting with two or more hovering fields of color against a colored ground. However, he did not develop this signature style until much later in his career. Mark Rothko was born Marcus Rothkowitz in Dvinsk, Russia on September 25, 1903. His family imigrated to the United States when he was 10 years old where they settled in Portland Oregon. Rothko attended Yale in 1921 with intentions to become an engineer or an attorney; however, in the fall of 1923 he gave up his studies and moved to New York City. Once in New York he attended art classes at the Art Students League. In the 1930s Rothko painted mostly street scenes and interiors with figures. Many of these scenes were of the New York subway. The figures in these paintings are usually faceless and flat. Soon Rothko left out the figures all together. He said, "It was with the utmost reluctance that i found the figure could not serve my purposes.....But a time came when none of us could us the figure without mutilating it." By the late 1940s asymmetrically arranged patches of color had become the basis of his paintings. In 1950 Rothko had reduced the number of floating rectangles to two, three, or four and aligned them vertically against a colored ground, arriving at his signature style. The colors were applied in thin washes giving his work new luminosity. While moving toward abstraction Rothko said, "We favor the simple expression of the complex thought. We are for the large shape because it has the impact of the unequivocal. We wish to reassert the picture plane. We are for flat forms because they destroy illusion and reveal truth" Rothkos work bgan to darken by the late 1950s, and on February 25, 1970 Rothko committed suicide after being physically ill and suffering from depression.

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