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Thursday, January 27, 2011

Mark Rothko

Mark Rothko (1903-1970) was born in what is now Latvia but emigrated with his parents to Portland, Oregon, in 1913. He entered Yale University in 1921, intending to become a labor leader, but dropped out after two years and wandered about the U.S. In 1925 he settled in New York City and took up painting. Although he studied briefly under the painter Max Weber, he was essentially self-taught.

Rothko first worked in a realistic style. By 1948, however, he had arrived at a highly personal form of Abstract Expressionism. Unlike many of his contemporaries, Rothko did not employ techniques such as violent brushstrokes or the dripping and splattering of paint. Instead, his paintings achieved their effects by juxtaposing large areas of vivid colors that seemingly float parallel to the picture plane.

By the early 1960s, Rothko was selling paintings to the likes of the Rockefellers, and in 1961 he had a retrospective at the Museum of Modern Art. But by then the art world was moving away from Abstract Expressionism and toward the Pop Art of artists like Andy Warhol. 

Rothko's color palette grew progressively darker, as seen in the paintings he did for Houston's Rothko Chapel and a series in brown, black, and gray. In 1970, Rothko took his own life in his New York studio. 

Recently, there was a flurry of interest in the Rothko image that was used on the set of Mad Men. Fans wanted to know if it was a real Rothko painting. Set decorator Amy Wells said, “After all the legal issues and the clearances, you get the image online and you reprint it. With their permission, obviously. That's how we got the Rothko. Of course, we have to destroy it after the season. It can't be circulated, because it's a direct copy."

From and

Rothko in the office of Bert Cooper in Mad Men


  1. I'm a huge Rothko fan, as well as a fan of Miro and Modigliani and Kandinski. Naturally I can't afford any originals at millions of dollars a pop, as most people can't, but I have prints of their work on my walls. Professionally matted and framed high quality prints look beautiful in any home.

    The print on the Mad Men set sure had a lot of people fooled! Since the set has so many nice vintage pieces, no one would have been surprised if they had wangled a loan for a few shots. :)

  2. What kind of artwork do the rest of you have on your walls? I'd love to see close-ups of it. You can see a lot of mine in the pictures of my house, which are linked in the righthand navigation section of the page.

  3. One of my favorite artists, but it looks like he didn't generate much interest on your blog.