Our Artists

Mark Rothko

Famous for his colourful works, Mark Rothko has always refused to belong to an artistic movement.  He is recognised all over the world for the major role he has played in the development of abstract art.


The early years and the “The Ten” Group

Mark Rothko arrived in the United States in 1913 and studied at Yale University before following courses run by Max Weber at the Art Students League in New York from 1925. He learned a great deal from visiting museums and meeting artists.  In 1929, he got a job as an art teacher at the Center Academy, Brooklyn.  This was also the year in which his paintings were exhibited in a gallery for the first time.  At the time, Rothko was painting landscapes, portraits and nudes.  His first personal exhibition was in 1933.  In 1935, Rothko founded the “The Ten” Group with Adolph Gottlieb and other artists.  Influenced by Impressionism, they were against Conservatism in art and organised a number of exhibitions, including some in Europe.

From surrealism to abstract

From 1940 onwards, Rothko moved closer to European Surrealism and regularly visited the “Art of this Century” gallery run by Peggy Guggenheim. It was here that Rothko’s most surrealistic works were exhibited. Now influenced by Max Ernst, André Masson and Arshile Gorky, he painted works inspired by mythology and symbols. In 1947-1948, his paintings, which had still been figurative up to this point, moved towards abstraction. Forms were less defined and hazier. Gradually the only shapes represented became geometric; different-coloured rectangles that became the paintings that were to make Mark Rothko famous.

Colour as a means of expression

From 1950, Rothko’s paintings became much larger.  A characteristic of Rothko’s work was to divide them into two or three rectangles of colour.  By playing with the thickness of the layers of paint, he varied the degree of light in his paintings which, with the variety of colours used, allowed him to suggest a wide range of atmospheres and moods. Rothko’s style may be compared to the technique known as “Colour Field Painting”, although he always refused to be part of any particular style, just as he refused to be classed amongst the abstract expressionists.

Over the years, Mark Rothko’s painting became darker.  In 1958, he completed some frescoes for the walls of the Four Seasons restaurant in New York.  From 1964 to 1967, he completed a series of 14 paintings for the chapel that would carry his name: The Rothko Chapel.  Suffering from cancer, he committed suicide in 1970.


Orange and Yellow, 1956
Red, white and brown, 1957
Black on Maroon, 1958

Useful links

Washington National Gallery of Art website dedicated to Mark Rothko: biography and various illustrations (in English)
Mark Rothko’s works at the Tate Modern and the Tate Britain, London
Press pack for the Mark Rothko exhibition at the Tate Modern in London from 26th September 2008 to 1st February 2009 (in English)
Mark Rothko at the New York Museum of Modern Art
The Rothko chapel, Houston, United States (in English)

Mark Rothko 's products at Nouvelles Images

> Prints and posters

Prints and posters Dark Brown Grey Orange Prints and posters Red, white, brown Prints and posters Earth and Green

Nationality(ies) : American, Russian
Born on : 25/09/1903
Died on : 25/02/1970
Profile : Painter
Artistic current(s) : Abstract art , Expressionism, Surrealism
Theme(s) covered : Colors and materials