Mark Rothko

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Detail from Las Meninas, Diego Velazquez, A painting is not about an experience. It is an experience.

Mark Rothko (25 September 190325 February 1970) born Marcus Rothkowitz, was a Latvian-born American painter sometimes classified as an Abstract Expressionist.

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  • To us art is an adventure into an unknown world, which can be explored only by those willing to take the risk.
    • Joint statement with Adolph Gottlieb to Edwin A. Jewell, written primarily by Rothko, often referred to as a manifesto. (written 7 June 1943; published 13 June 1943)
  • We favor the simple expression of complex thought. We are for the large shape because it has the impact of the unequivocal. We wish to reassert the picture plane. We are for flat forms because they destroy illusion and reveal truth.
    • Joint statement with Adolph Gottlieb to Edwin A. Jewell, written primarily by Rothko, often referred to as a manifesto. (written 7 June 1943; published 13 June 1943)
  • 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 academism. There is no such thing as good painting about nothing. We assert that only that subject matter is valid which is tragic and timeless. That is why we profess spiritual kinship with primitive and archaic art.
    • Joint statement with Adolph Gottlieb to Edwin A. Jewell, written primarily by Rothko, often referred to as a manifesto. (written 7 June 1943; published 13 June 1943)
  • It's a risky business to send a picture out into the world. How often it must be impaired by the eyes of the unfeeling and the cruelty of the impotent who could extend their affliction universally!
    • As quoted in Conversations with Artists (1957) by Selden Rodman, p. 92; later published in "Notes from a conversation with Selden Rodman, 1956" in Writings on Art : Mark Rothko (2006) edited by Miguel López-Remiro ISBN 0300114400
  • I am not an abstractionist. ... I am not interested in the relationship of colour or form or anything else. ... I'm interested 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 show that I 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 relationships, then you miss the point!
    • As quoted in Conversations with Artists (1957) by Selden Rodman; later published in "Notes from a conversation with Selden Rodman, 1956" in Writings on Art : Mark Rothko (2006) edited by Miguel López-Remiro
  • A painting is not about an experience. It is an experience.
    • As quoted in "Mark Rothko" by Dorothy Seiberling in LIFE magazine (16 November 1959), p. 52
  • I will say without reservations that from my view there can be no abstractions. Any shape or area which has not the pulsating concreteness of real flesh and bones, its vulnerability to pleasure or pain is nothing at all. Any picture which does not provide the environment in which the breath of life can be drawn does not interest me.
    • As quoted in Mark Rothko : A Biography (1993) by James E. B. Breslin

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  • I quarrel with surrealists and abstract art only as one quarrels with his father and mother.
  • I paint very large pictures because I want to create a state of intimacy.A large picture is an immediate transaction.It takes you into it.
  • I think of my pictures as dramas;the shapes in the pictures are the performers...neither the action,nor the actors can be anticipated or described in advance.

Quotes about Rothko

  • Mark Rothko was very conscious of his sources, both as location and as cultural heritage.
    • Stanley Kunitz, as quoted in Mark Rothko : A Biography (1993) by James E. B. Breslin
  • There is a moment of blinding light. There is a moment that seems like death, a paralysis. Then a new man, Paul, emerges from the experience. Rothko, the most famous example, changed his name, his wife and his style in a few months of profound self-questioning.
    • Thomas B. Hess, in Barnett Newman (1971)

External links

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