Mark Rothko

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Rothko, Mark

(rŏth`kō), 1903–70, American painter, b. Dvinsk, Russia (now Daugavpils, Latvia), as Marcus Rotkovitch. His family immigrated to the United States in 1913. He was a student of Max WeberWeber, Max
, 1881–1961, American painter, b. Russia. At 10 he accompanied his family to Brooklyn, N.Y. He studied art at Pratt Institute and in 1905 went abroad. In Paris he studied under J. P. Laurens, later visiting Spain and Italy and returning to New York in 1909.
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, then came under the influence of the surrealists. In the mid-1940s Rothko experimented with abstraction, arranging intense colors in irregular shapes. Soon he became a leading exponent of a uniquely meditative and personal strain within the larger movement of abstract expressionismabstract expressionism,
movement of abstract painting that emerged in New York City during the mid-1940s and attained singular prominence in American art in the following decade; also called action painting and the New York school.
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. His later works (e.g., No. 10, 1950; Mus. of Modern Art, New York City) frequently consist of floating rectangles of luminous color on enormous canvases that manage to convey simultaneously a deep sensuality and a profound spirituality. Rothko's images to some degree presaged some of the techniques of the later color-field paintingcolor-field painting,
abstract art movement that originated in the 1960s. Coming after the abstract expressionism of the 1950s, color-field painting represents a sharp change from the earlier movement.
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. He collaborated with the architect Philip JohnsonJohnson, Philip Cortelyou,
1906–2005, American architect, museum curator, and historian, b. Cleveland, grad. Harvard Univ. (B.A., 1927). One of the first Americans to study modern European architecture, Johnson wrote (with H.-R.
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 on the design of a chapel in Houston in the mid-1960s. Rothko committed suicide.


See his The Artist's Reality: Philosophies of Art (1940, pub. 2004; ed. by his son, C. Rothko), and his Writings on Art (1934–69, pub. 2006; ed. by M. Lopez-Remiro); D. Anfam, Mark Rothko: The Works on Canvas: Catalogue Raisonné (1998); biographies by J. E. B. Breslin (1993) and A. Cohen-Solal (2015); P. Selz, Mark Rothko (1972); L. Seldes, The Legacy of Mark Rothko (1978, repr. 1996); D. Ashton, About Rothko (1983, repr. 1996); A. C. Chave, Mark Rothko: Subjects in Abstraction (1989); M. Glimcher, ed., The Art of Mark Rothko (1991); D. Waldman, Mark Rothko in New York (1994); S. Nadelman, The Rothko Chapel Paintings (1996); L. Seldes, The Legacy of Mark Rothko (1996), J. S. Weiss et al., Mark Rothko (1998); K. Ottmann, The Essential Mark Rothko (2003); C. Rothko, his son, Mark Rothko: From the Inside Out (2015).

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Rothko, Mark (b. Marcus Rothkovitch)

(1903–70) painter; born in Daugavpils (Dinsk), Latvia. His immigrant parents settled in Portland, Ore. (1913). After two years at Yale he settled in New York City, and except for a brief time studying with Max Weber (1925), he became a self-taught painter. During the 1930s he moved through various styles—starting with traditional representational subjects, then mythological themes—and from 1935–37 he was employed by the Federal Arts Project. In the early 1940s he took an interest in surrealism, but by 1947 his works became increasingly more abstract and by 1950 he found his true style in so-called color-field paintings, works with large rectangles of color that express moods, as in Four Darks in Red (1958). In 1961 he had a one-man retrospective at the Museum of Modern Art, an honor reserved for the giants of art. In 1970 he had two more major exhibits—at the Museum of Modern Art and the Metropolitan Museum of Art—but he committed suicide that year, shortly after he had completed what some regard as his masterwork, a group of murals for an interdenominational chapel in Houston, Texas.
The Cambridge Dictionary of American Biography, by John S. Bowman. Copyright © Cambridge University Press 1995. Reproduced with permission.
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