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Mark Rothko Facts: Arts, How the Artist Died & Why Is Mark Rothko Famous

24.09.2021
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Mark Rothko Facts

The artist Mark Rothko’s contribution to contemporary art is enormous, but he became successful gradually, making considerable efforts. In this article, we would look at the creative path of Mark Rothko and how he influenced painting and culture.

Mark Rothko (Markus Rotkovich) was born in Dvinsk (Russia) now Daugavpils (Latvia) on September 25, 1903. He was 10 years old when his family emigrated to America and settled in Portland, (Oregon, in 1913. After graduating from Lincoln Gymnasium with brilliant results, Rothko was awarded a scholarship and in 1921 became a student at Yale University. Studying in the cradle of America’s intellectual elite, Rothko contemporaries study languages – English and French, European history, mathematics, physics, biology, economics.

Mark Rothko Facts

Initially, he was going to become an engineer or a lawyer, but after studying for two years at Yale, he moved to New York, where he began to take painting lessons at the studio of the famous American artist Max Weber, in the Student Art League. Then he continued to independently improve his skills in the studios of his colleagues.

  • Mark Rothko, New York, became a central figure in the development of post-war American art, identified primarily with the New York school of painting.
  • In 1940, he co-founded the New Federation of American Painters and Sculptors. Together with many other painters and sculptors of his time, Mark Rothko came to the conviction that recognizable images become an obstacle to obtaining a strong direct experience in contact with art.
  • One of the Mark Rothko’s interesting facts is that he used to work with an expressive and surrealistic imagery system, he ultimately creates his own unique personal style, characterized by a stable formula: two or three rectangular color forms floating in space one on top of the other and interacting with each other, as well as in relation to the main color field. So you learned Mark Rothko’s interesting facts.

Since 1949, within the framework of this Mark Rothko art style format, it has been possible to create paintings, endlessly varying their emotional mood from deep melancholy to the unrestrainedly triumphant joy of life.

Mark Rothko Artworks

His work focuses on the expressive potential of large color fields, on the optical effects and physical sensations generated by the enveloping atmosphere of these pictorial forms that soar and shine with an inner light. Now you know why is mark Rothko important.

But the most essential and important characteristic of the Mark Rothko art movement is its incredible ability to evoke a strong emotional response in the hearts of viewers. His paintings speak of the simple and the complex, the very personal and the universal, using an extremely laconic language, in the artistic vocabulary of which the master left only color and geometry.

Mark Rothko’s art was among the few artists who made New York the center of world art in the 1950s.

Kingman Brewster, President of Yale, wrote to Rothko about the award of the Honorary Doctor of Fine Arts from Yale University.

Over the past decades, we have seen a steadily growing interest in Mark Rothko style, especially in those regions where it was still little known. There are a huge number of musical compositions dedicated to his picturesque images, from Morton Feldman to Peter Gabriel. And this is not accidental, since the artist’s life goal was raising painting to the level of the greatness of music, which, as it influences the consciousness and subconsciousness of a person (according to Schopegauer and Nietzsche), occupies the highest position in the hierarchy of arts. There are also many poetic works written in different languages, inspired by the canvases of Rothko exhibit NYC.

Now, we can safely say that it is unlikely to find even one artist in the modern world of art who would fully manage to avoid the direct or indirect influence of Rothko paintings meaning, without taking into account his experience of working with color. All this together is reflected in the record sales of Rothko’s paintings at auctions in recent years.

Retrospective exhibitions of Mark Rothko’s paintings break records in the number of visitors and become the most successful museum projects. Significant museums in Europe and America take pride in the fact that the artist’s work is featured in their permanent exhibition.

Abstract Expressionism Rothko

Abstract Expressionism Rothko

Mark Rothko is considered the most original among the pioneers of abstract art. However, he never considered himself part of the movement and was not ready to classify his works as abstract expressionism or any other term.

The artist gave precise instructions for viewing Mark Rothko’s early paintings of the late period. He invited the viewer to stand eighteen inches from the canvas in order to feel closeness, immediacy, personality, and a sense of the unknown. He explained that his works should hang relatively low so that they are fully facing the viewer’s body; viewers had to occupy a room in which there were only small numbers of paintings – one or two people at a time, to ensure complete immersion in the picture.

Despite record prices for Mark Rothko’s famous paintings in the modern art business, prosperity and fame have never been Rothko’s priorities. So, in 1958, Philip Johnson invited Rothko to paint frescoes for the Four Seasons restaurant in the Seagram building. Painting frescoes could have brought the artist a lot of money, but he broke the contract. It is suspected that Mark thought the project would jeopardize his integrity as an artist and make his paintings purely decorative in a lavish dining room.

  • His work made little money until the late 1950s. Then, almost in the blink of an eye, the situation changed dramatically. His problems were no longer poverty and obscurity, but how to cope with wealth and fame. In the early 1960s, an Italian collector offered $100,000 for the Seagram frescoes. The money finally flowed like a river, Rothko became a famous artist, he received invitations to parties and events. That’s how expensive Mark Rothko’s signature cost.
  • One of Mark’s outstanding creations is the chapel founded by John and Dominique de Menil in Houston, Texas. They commissioned the artist to create a meditative space for an octagonal interior in 1964. He filled the interior with the chapel with fourteen paintings. To paint the chapel (1964-1967), Rothko remodeled the interior of his Manhattan studio to recreate the octagonal space and lighting of the chapel. The paintings created by Mark for the chapel are some of the darkest and most thoughtful of the artist’s entire creative heritage. The Rothko Chapel serves as a sanctuary for everyone, regardless of faith. Unfortunately, Rothko never saw the opening of the cathedral. After a year later, when did Mark Rothko die, the chapel opened its doors in 1971.

In the later stages of his career, in the 1960s, Rothko’s paintings began to drift towards darkness, a complete shift away from his former focus on bright canvases, where color seemingly took center stage. Mark Rothko’s dark palette has come to dominate his palette in what many now see as an omen of his suicide. Surprisingly, his latest work is a screaming blood-red composition.

Mark Rothko, Black Paintings

For Mark Rothko, one of the central figures (along with Jackson Pollock and Willem de Kooning) in the abstract expressionist movement that dominated world art for decades after World War II, the painting was associated with emotions and spiritual feelings.

Famous paintings included such works as:

Mark Rothko, “Entrance to Subway” (1938)
Mark Rothko, “Entrance to Subway” (1938)
Mark Rothko, “Untitled” (1938)
Mark Rothko, “Untitled” (1938)
“Underground fantasy”. 1940
“Underground fantasy”. 1940
Mark Rothko, “Untitled” (1942)
Mark Rothko, “Untitled” (1942)
Mark Rothko, "Slow Swirl At The Edge of The Sea" (1944)
Mark Rothko, “Slow Swirl At The Edge of The Sea” (1944)
Mark Rothko, "Gethsemane" (1944)
Mark Rothko, “Gethsemane” (1944)
Mark Rothko, "Untitled” (1945)
Mark Rothko, “Untitled” (1945)
Mark Rothko, “No. 9” (1947)
Mark Rothko, “No. 9” (1947)
Mark Rothko, “Yellow, cherry, orange” (1947)
Mark Rothko, “Yellow, cherry, orange” (1947)
Mark Rothko, “Untitled, black on gray” (1969)
Mark Rothko, “Untitled, black on gray” (1969)

In the later stages of his career, in the 1960s, Rothko’s paintings began to drift towards darkness, a complete shift away from his former focus on bright canvases, where color seemingly took center stage. Dark gray and almost black colors began to dominate his palette, which many now see as an omen of his suicide. Surprisingly, Mark Rothko’s last painting is a screaming blood-red composition.

Why Is Mark Rothko Famous?

The war years passed calmly for the artist – he continued to engage in teaching activities, he was not at the front. “There are no heroes in the Rothko family,” he joked. But even if he went to the army as a volunteer, he would most likely be recognized as unfit due to his very poor eyesight. The artist remarried, his new passion turned out to be the typical American Mell Beistle – a Protestant from the middle class. She was 19 years younger than her husband and addressed him only by her last name. According to Rothko, he remained a foreigner, and she made an American out of him.

In the spring of 1945, Mark Rothko the works on canvas demonstrated something fundamentally new at the exhibition of the Art of Our Century project – works that combine abstraction and surrealism. Two years later, he finally plunged into non-figurative art. By the early 50s, he had developed a corporate identity – color planes with blurred edges, a complete rejection not only of figurativeness but even of the line. At one not-so-wonderful moment, Mark Rothko portrait became a celebrity, an American star – but did not know what to do with his fame and did not understand how to react to it.

In the late 50s, famous for his gigantomania in the good sense of the word, the artist received a number of extremely important orders for frescoes: he painted the Four Seasons restaurant, the Seagram skyscraper, created a panel for the Holyoke Center at Harvard University, commissioned by Vasily Leontiev. Several more projects turned out to be unfinished or not implemented at all.

Mark Rothko Depression

Until the end of his days, Rothko struggled with depression, and the disease ultimately prevailed. Every year the artist went into himself more and more, locked himself in his studio, overturned the first glass of booze at ten in the morning. I reread Nietzsche and listened to Mozart. “I hate nature,” he once remarked, “in the natural environment, I feel uncomfortable.”

In the spring of 1968, doctors diagnosed Rothko with a dangerous diagnosis – arterial aneurysm. He was forbidden to drink and smoke, a diet was prescribed, but he ignored all recommendations. And yet, he was no longer able to write monumental canvases and was forced to switch to more modest formats. At the same time, his marriage to Mell was bursting at the seams – his wife was becoming an alcoholic. The relationship with her daughter also did not go well – Mark forbade her everything: festivities, dances, parties. On January 1, 1969, Rothko and Beistl divorced, and the artist moved to the studio.

On February 25, 1970, the artist’s assistant, Oliver Steindecker, found Mark Rothko lying in a pool of his own blood – he cut his veins. The autopsy revealed that he had taken a lethal dose of antidepressants before Rothko’s suicide.
He was buried in the north of Long Island in the East Marion Cemetery. In 2006, descendants petitioned for Mark Rothko’s death to be reburied in the cemetery in Kensiko, where his mother was laid to rest. The permit was obtained in 2008.

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