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Mark Rothko Archive

Art Resource, the world's leading source for fine art images, has been chosen by the heirs of Mark Rothko to function as the exclusive rights representative for the Rothko photo archive.

Mark Rothko was born Marcus Rothkovich in 1903, in Dvinsk, Russia (now Daugavpils, Latvia). After emigrating to Portland, Oregon with his family in 1913, he attended Yale University on scholarship for two years, then left to pursue a career in art in New York City.

Rothko's early work focused on the expressive depiction of human form, typically in urban settings such as subway platforms. In these paintings Rothko developed his signature style of layering thin tints of pigment on the canvas. In 1935, he formed the Ten group with other artists including Adolph Gottlieb. It was at this time, inspired by the Jungian theory of a collective unconscious, that Rothko abandoned the human figure. He instead experimented with universalized symbols intended to convey the essential elements of the human condition--a theme which occupied him until his death in 1970.

By the late 1940s, Rothko although still not well known, exhibited at Peggy Guggenheim's Art of This Century gallery. During this time he perfected his glazing techniques in oil and his work became increasingly abstract. From the late 1940s on, his paintings were dominated by the rectangular bands of color layered in thin applications of paint which became his celebrated signature style. These complete abstractions were intended to evoke emotion in the spectator. As he stated in 1957, "I'm interested only in expressing basic human emotions- tragedy, ecstasy, doom...and if you are moved only by their color relationships, then you miss the point." Rothko's masterful use of abstraction to evoke emotional responses in his viewers led, in 1964, to his paintings for the Rothko Chapel in Houston. Sponsored by John and Dominique de Menil, it is considered one of the most important religious commissions of the 20th century.

Mark Rothko (1903-1970)
Untitled. 1949. Oil on canvas, 54 7/8 x 43 7/8 in.
Art Resource. © Rothko Heirs / ARS, NY