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Mark Rothko

1903 - 1970

1903

Born Markus Rothkowitz, 25 September, in Dvinsk, Russia, the youngest of four children. His father, Jacob, is a pharmacist.

1913

Family comes to the United States as part of the large wave of Jewish immigration from Eastern Europe; they settle in Portland, Oregon.

1914

Father dies. Children work in their uncle's clothing business.

1913 - 23

Attends school and studies drawing at local art school.

1921 - 23

Attend Yale University for two years on scholarship.

1924 - 29

Moves to New York and enrols at Art Students League. Studies with Max Weber, a leader in the American modern movement, and experiments with expressionist style.

early 1930s

Teaches part-time, and meets other artists, including Adolph Gottlieb and David Smith, who will also become leaders of the "New York School."

1935 - 39

Along with Jackson Pollock and other New York artists, is employed during the Depression by the WPA Federal Art Project, a government-sponsored program for artists. Becomes interested in ancient and African art. Paints distorted figural studies in contemporary settings.

1936

Meets Barnett Newman. Exhibition of Dada and Surrealism at the Museum of Modern Art influences development of American art.

1938

Becomes American citizen. Experiments with Surrealist-influenced automatic drawing techniques and notions of the artist's subconscious as the subject of art.

1939

Begins painting mythical subjects in semi-abstract style.

1943

Arrival of André Breton, author of the Surrealist manifesto, from France, and influx of European avant-garde artists to New York, escaping the war.

1943

Along with Newman and Gottlieb pursues interest in an aesthetic based on Greco-Roman and Christian myth. Rothko's painting combines unusual juxtapositions of images, sometimes segregated in zones. Colours tend to be soft and thinly applied.

1944

Joins Peggy Guggenheim's Art of This Century gallery, which also exhibits works by Pollock, Still, and other abstract artists.

1947

Rothko's painting evolves away from Surrealism and towards a greater abstraction as figurative elements give way to diffused patches of colour floating in an ambiguous space.

1949

Stops titling his paintings (as do many of his contemporaries) and now gives them numbers and dates. Mature style begins to emerge, with compositions increasingly simplified. Large, soft-edged coloured rectangles dominate the space.

1952 - 57

Exhibits at the Museum of Modern Art, the Art Institute of Chicago, the Rhode Island School of Design, and the Sidney Janis Gallery. Paints No. 16 (NGC).

1958 - 59

Commissioned to paint murals for restaurant in the Seagram Building, New York, but abandons project due to an uneasiness with painting for a privileged elite.

1961

Major solo exhibition at the Museum of Modern Art, with 54 works exhibited. Paints commissioned murals for Harvard University.

1964

Paints murals for a non-denominational chapel in Houston, Texas.

1968

Suffers a stroke.

1969

Leaves home and family to live in his studio. Receives honorary doctorate from Yale University.

1970

February 25: takes own life in studio.

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Birth name

Mark Rothko

Born

Born in Dvinsk, Russia, 25 September 1903

Died

Died in New York, New York, 25 February 1970

Nationality

Russian, American

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