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Mark Rothko

Mark Rothko, neé Marcus Rothkowitz, was born on September 25, 1903 in Dvinsk, Russia (today Daugavpils, Latvia). Rothko and his family migrated to the United States when he was ten years old and settled in Portland, Oregon. In 1921 Rothko attended Yale University, however, in the fall of 1923 he gave up his studies and moved to New York City where he enrolled at the Art Student League briefly studying under Max Weber. In the late 1920s Rothko met the artist Milton Avery and was profoundly influenced by his simplified and colorful depictions of domestic subjects.

From 1942 to 1947, Rothko worked in association with Gottlieb and had a special interest in the Surrealism, drawing upon Greek mythology, primitive art, Christian tragedy and Symbolism by way of contrast with a period dominated by anxiety and sadness and the worst years of World War II. His works became horizontal shapes with new experimentation of techniques, leading to the development of luminosity. Rothko began to experiment with horizontal bands and worked on larger scales than he used to do before.

In 1945, Peggy Guggenheim organized a solo exhibition of Rothko's work at her Art of this Century gallery, New York. By 1947, Rothko discontinued the use of mythology theme, and worked more on abstraction. Linear elements were progressively eliminated and asymmetrically arranged patches of color became the basis of Rothko’s compositions. He began to paint the edges of his stretched canvases, which he displayed without confining frames. He also abandoned the entitling of his work to create a pure interpretation in the viewer’s eyes. By the 1950’s, his paintings were made of two or three rectangles, at most four and moved on larger canvases. In the late 1950’s his palette of colors became darker, a development related to his Seagram murals, commissioned for the Four Seasons Restaurant in 1958, the first of three other mural projects.

His works are included in the Public collections of The Detroit Institute of Arts, Detroit, The Guggenheim Museum, New York; The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York; The Museum of Fine Arts, Boston; The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston; The Museum of Modern Art, New York; The National Gallery of Art, Washington D.C; The San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, San Francisco; The Phillips Collection, Washington D.C; The Brooklyn Museum of Art, New York; The Cleveland Museum of Art, Cleveland; The Folkang Art Museum, Essen; The Fukuoka Art Museum, Fukuoka; The Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Washington D.C; The Kunstmuseum, Basel; The Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth, Fort Worth; The Museo Nacional de Bellas Artes; Buenos Aires; The Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles; The Smart Museum of Art at the University of Chicago, Chicago; The Tate Gallery, London; The Thyssen-Bornemisza Museum, Madrid; The Walker Art Center, Minnesota; The Whitney Museum of American Art, New York.

Mark Rothko died on February 25, 1970 in his New York studio. A Posthumous retrospective Mark Rothko 1903-1970 was organized at the Museum of Modern Art in 1970.

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