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Mark Rothko

Mark Rothko

(1903 - 1970)
Born: Dvinsk, Russia
Style: Expressionism
Famous Works:
  • Archaic Idol (1945)
  • No. 18 (1951)
  • Untitled (Brown and Gray) (1969)
Mark Rothko was born in Russia and immigrated to the United States with his family at the age of 10. He was not trained formally, instead working by himself to master the fundamentals of painting. Following the work of his contemporaries working in Abstract Expressionist styles, Rothko began working in what became known as Color Field Painting. Instead of emphasizing the extremes of action and spontaneity like Franz Kline, Willem de Kooning, and Jackson Pollock, Color Field painters broke off, and explored a limitless depth and space in hues that evoked poignant emotions. Rothko's early work contains figures drenched in color and full of whimsical line, showing an interest in the work of Fauvist Henri Matisse and Surrealist Max Ernst. As his work matured from the late 1940s, Rothko eliminated the figure, eventually reducing his compositions to two or three rectangles, stacked and hovering at the front of the picture plane, and rendered in saturated color. These works are often referred to as multiforms, and are immense in scale. This is because he believed that the immediacy and intimacy of his work was most extreme when the viewer could look at the paintings and be enveloped by them. This desire to induce spiritual experiences in the viewer was the driving force of Rothko's life work. He received a major retrospective of his work at the Museum of Modern Art in 1961. Despite this and other success, the artist suffered from depression and declining health, and took his own life in 1970, shortly after completing the dark, monumental canvases for the Rothko Chapel in Houston, Texas.
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