1 Despite being an intelligent and academically minded person, Mark Rothko had almost no training in drawing or painting. He did spend some time with the Cubist painter Max Weber but other than that his artistic skills were largely instinctive. How’s that for raw talent?
2 He was a part of the first major American art movement recognised by the art world – Abstract Expressionism. The fame that came with being associated with this movement was something he became increasingly conflicted about, and he never really resolved this in his lifetime.
3 He believed that it was important to find new ways to express our simplest and most basic needs and feelings in art. He painted in a minimalist and almost childish style. As he himself said, “I’m not an abstractionist. I’m not interested in the relationship of color or form or anything else. I’m interested only in expressing basic human emotions: tragedy, ecstasy, doom, and so on.”
4 He was a socialist and had a distrust of money and privilege. He despised the idea of people buying his work just because it was fashionable and popular, and sometimes refused to sell his paintings to people who didn’t respond to them in the way he thought appropriate.
5 During his early years he was very much influenced by surrealist painters, in particular Paul Klee and Georges Rouault. He was very much drawn to the way that these artists used colour. These ideas were to influence him throughout his life.
6 While he is best known for his abstract style he tried painting in more realist styles in his early career. It took him until he was 44, in 1947 to create the first of the large abstract paintings that he eventually became most famous for.
7 Rothko’s signature style is described as colour-field painting. These paintings were aimed at conveying the full range of human emotion – feelings of ecstasy, despair, and grief.
8 Like many abstract artists, Rothko really emphasised the spiritual nature of his art (especially in the later period of his life), believing that his paintings could be transformative and bring about a spiritual experience.
9 6 years before he died, Rothko was commissioned by John and Dominique de Menil to create a ‘chapel,’ filled with his paintings. It became known as Rothko’s Chapel, an ecumenical place of worship and contemplation for all faiths. Around 55,000 people still visit it today where it stands in Houston, Texas.
10 Rothko suffered for a long time with depression. Sadly he was to take his own life in his studio in New York on the 25th February 1970, at the age of 66.
You can find Rothko Prints here:
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