Abstract Impressionism

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Mark Rothko

Marcus Yakovlevich Rothkowitz known as Mark Rothko was born September 25, 1903. Mark Rothko was an American abstract impressionist painter. Mark Rothko was born in Dvinsk, Vitebsk Governorate, in the Russian Empire - today Daugavpils in Latvia. His father, Jacob (Yakov) Rothkowitz, was a pharmacist and an intellectual who initially provided his children with a secular and political, rather than religious, upbringing.

Despite Jacob Rothkowitz's modest income, the family was highly educated ("We were a reading family," Rothko's sister recalled), and Rothko was able to speak Russian, Yiddish, and Hebrew. Fearing that his sons were about to be drafted into the Imperial Russian Army, Jacob Rothkowitz emigrated from Russia to the United States. Marcus remained in Russia with his mother and elder sister Sonia. Later, they joined Jacob and the elder brothers in Portland, Oregon, arriving at Ellis Island in the winter of 1913.

Marcus started school in the United States in 1913, quickly accelerating from third to fifth grade, and completed the secondary level with honors at Lincoln High School in Portland, in June 1921 at the age of seventeen. Where he learned his fourth language, English. Rothko received a scholarship to Yale. At the end of his freshman year, the scholarship was not renewed, and he worked as a waiter and delivery boy to support his studies.

While visiting a friend at the Art Students League of New York, he saw students sketching a model. According to Rothko, this was the beginning of his life as an artist.

Returning to New York, Rothko had his first East Coast one-man show at the Contemporary Arts Gallery. He showed fifteen oil paintings, mostly portraits, along with some aquarelles and drawings. In 1936, Rothko began writing a book, never completed, about similarities in the art of children and the work of modern painters. Rothko's work matured from representation and mythological subjects into rectangular fields of color and light, that later culminated in his final works for the Rothko Chapel.

In 1947, during a summer semester teaching at the California School of Fine Art, Rothko and Still flirted with the idea of founding their own curriculum, and they realized the idea in New York in the following year. Named "The Subjects of the Artists School," they employed David Hare and Robert Motherwell, among others. Though the group separated later in the same year, the school was the center of a flurry of activity in contemporary art.

Soon, the "multiforms" developed into the signature style; by early 1949 Rothko exhibited these new works at the Betty Parsons Gallery. For critic Harold Rosenberg, the paintings were nothing short of a revelation. After painting his first "multiform," Rothko had secluded himself to his home in East Hampton on Long Island. He invited only a select few, including Rosenberg, to view the new paintings. The discovery of his definitive form came at a period of great distress to the artist; his mother Kate had died in October 1948. It was during that winter that Rothko happened upon the use of symmetrical rectangular blocks of two to three opposing or contrasting, yet complementary, colors, in which, for example, "the rectangles sometimes seem barely to coalesce out of the ground, concentrations of its substance. The green bar in Magenta, Black, Green on Orange, on the other hand, appears to vibrate against the orange around it, creating an optical flicker."

Many of the "multiforms" and early signature paintings are composed of bright, vibrant colors, particularly reds and yellows, expressing energy and ecstasy. By the mid-1950s, however, close to a decade after the completion of the first "multiforms," Rothko began to employ dark blues and greens; for many critics of his work this shift in colors was representative of a growing darkness within Rothko's personal life.

Rothko's method was to apply a thin layer of binder mixed with pigment directly onto uncoated and untreated canvas and to paint significantly thinned oils directly onto this layer, creating a dense mixture of overlapping colors and shapes. His brushstrokes were fast and light. Rothko used several original techniques that he tried to keep secret even from his assistants. Electron microscopy and ultraviolet analysis conducted by the MOLAB showed that he employed natural substances such as egg and glue, as well as artificial materials including acrylic resins, phenol formaldehyde, modified alkyd, and others.[50] One of his objectives was to make the various layers of the painting dry quickly, without mixing of colors, so that that he could soon create new layers on top of the earlier ones.

As Rothko achieved success in his unique abstract impressionism, he became increasingly protective of his works, turning down several potentially important sales and exhibition opportunities. Despite his fame, Rothko felt a growing personal seclusion and a sense of being misunderstood as an artist. He feared that people purchased his paintings

simply out of fashion and that the true purpose of his work was not being grasped by collectors, critics, or audiences. For Rothko, the paintings were objects that possessed their own form and potential, and therefore, must be encountered as such. "My paintings' surfaces are expansive and push outward in all directions, or their surfaces contract and rush inward in all directions. Between these two poles, you can find everything I want to say."

"only in expressing basic human emotions — tragedy, ecstasy, doom, and so on. And the fact that a lot of people break down and cry when confronted with my pictures shows that I can communicate those basic human emotions . . . The people who weep before my pictures are having the same religious experience I had when I painted them. And if you, as you say, are moved only by their color relationship, then you miss the point." - The most intensive form of abstract impressionism.

Rothko's first completed space was created in the Phillips Collection in Washington, D.C., following the purchase of four paintings by collector Duncan Phillips. Rothko's fame and wealth had substantially increased; his paintings began to sell to notable collectors, including the Rockefellers. In January 1961, Rothko sat next to Joseph Kennedy at John F. Kennedy's inaugural ball. Later that year, a retrospective of his work was held at the Museum of Modern Art, to considerable commercial and critical success.

The complete works on canvas of Rothko, 836 paintings, have been catalogued by art historian David Anfam in his 1998 book Mark Rothko: The Works on Canvas : Catalogue Raisonné, published by Yale University Press in 1998. The family collection of Mark Rothko works owned by Mark Rothko Estate has been represented by the Pace Gallery in New York since 1978. The Latvian city of Daugavpils, the birthplace of the late artist, unveiled a monument to the artist on the bank of the Daugava River in 2003. In early November 2005 Rothko's 1953 painting Homage to Matisse broke the record for any postwar painting at a public auction, selling for 22.5 million dollars. In May 2007, Rothko's 1950 painting White Center (Yellow, Pink and Lavender on Rose) broke this record again, selling at Sotheby's in New York for 72.8 million dollars. The painting was sold by banker David Rockefeller, who attended the auction. In May 2012, Rothko's 1961 painting Orange, Red, Yellow (#693 in Anfam's catalogue raisonné) was sold by Christie's in New York for 86.9 million dollars, setting a new nominal-value record for a postwar painting at a public auction.