A Rothko Primer
A little about the man, Mark Rothko.
By Joanna Horowitz

It is a widely accepted notion among painters that it does not matter what one paints as long as it is well painted. This is the essence of academicism. There is no such thing as a good painting about nothing.” —Mark Rothko

Mark Rothko was one of the most famous abstract expressionists—and he had a reputation for being rebellious, anarchic, and highly idiosyncratic. Rothko was influenced greatly by mythology and philosophy, insisting that his rich fields of color were windows into much deeper ideas and emotion.

Born Marcus Rothkowitz in Russia in 1903, Rothko and his family immigrated to the U.S. and lived in Portland, Oregon. He received a scholarship to Yale, but dropped out and ended up in New York in the mid 1920s where he would eventually become a part of “The New York School,” a name given to the loose collective of Abstract Expressionists.

His early paintings contained recognizable symbols, but as the years went on, his work became more and more abstract, evolving into the color blocks for which he is most well-known.

At the time that Red takes place, his work had begun to turn especially dark, seeped with colors like red, maroon, and black.

Until his death in 1970, he held onto a social revolutionary’s mindset, calling for total freedom of expression. It was a belief that sometimes put him at odds with members of the established art world.