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Mark Rothko - Biography & Paintings Mark Rothko Number 5

Mark Rothko was born on Sept. 25, 1903, in Gvinsk, Russia, and immigrated to the United States in 1913, settling in Seattle. He enrolled at Yale University in 1921 and at The Art Student's League in New York in 1925. In 1936, Rothko joined the WPA (Works Project Administration) easel painting division in New York where he met Adolph Gottlieb, Milton Avery and William Baziotes. In 1948, with Robert Motherwell, Clifford Still and Barnett Newman, Rothko formed 'The Subjects of Artists School,' a group that met to discuss the content of abstract painting. By the late 1940's, Rothko was considered a seminal figure in the Abstract ex-pressionist movement. Rothko's images became abstract under the influence of the European Surrealist's, and like the Surrealists, he was interested in mythology and universal symbols. By the late 1940's, Rothko had established his signature style of rectangular forms defined by an irregular, undefined edge painted on a one-color field. Celebrated for his use of color, Rothko developed a process in which he used thinned oils applied in layers to attain the effect of translucent and luminous watercolor. For extensive periods throughout his career Rothko taught at colleges and universities.

Rothko's first solo exhibition in New York was held at the Contemporary Arts Gallery in 1933. In 1935, he was a founding member of the Ten, a group of artists sympathetic to abstraction and ex-pressionism [more]. He executed easel paintings for the WPA Federal Art Project from 1936 to 1937. By 1936, Rothko knew Barnett Newman. In the early 1940s, he worked closely with Gottlieb, developing a painting style with mythological content, simple flat shapes, and imagery inspired by primitive art. By mid-decade, his work incorporated Surrealist techniques and images. Peggy Guggenheim gave Rothko a solo show at Art of This Century in New York in 1945. In 1947 and 1949, Rothko taught at the California School of Fine Arts, San Francisco, where Clyfford Still was a fellow instructor. With William Baziotes, David Hare, and Robert Motherwell, Rothko founded the short-lived Subjects of the Artist school in New York in 1948. The late 1940s and early 1950s saw the emergence of Rothko's mature style, in which frontal, luminous rectangles seem to hover on the canvas surface. In 1958, the artist began his first commission, monumental paintings for the Four Seasons Restaurant in New York. The Museum of Modern Art, New York, gave Rothko an important solo exhibition in 1961. He completed murals for Harvard University in 1962 and in 1964 accepted a mural commission for an interdenominational chapel in Houston. Rothko took his own life February 25, 1970, in his New York studio. A year later, the Rothko Chapel in Houston was dedicated.

Rothko's images became abstract under the influence of the European Surrealist's, and like the Surrealists, he was interested in mythology and universal symbols. By the late 1940's, Rothko had established his signature style of rectangular forms defined by an irregular, undefined edge painted on a one-color field. Celebrated for his use of color, Rothko developed a process in which he used thinned oils applied in layers to attain the effect of translucent and luminous watercolor.

Rothko's paintings are viewed by many to be quasi-religious although they have represent no object or symbol of faith. They are spiritual, timeless and personal, transcendent and emotional.

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