Mark Rothko (1903 – 1970) was an American painter. He is classified as an abstract expressionist, although he rejected the label. Rothko’s work is characterized by simplified forms, large fields of color and often a somber mood.
Rothko was born in Dvinsk, Russia (now Latvia) to a family of Jewish food merchants. He immigrated to the United States with his family in 1913 to escape the persecution of Jews in Russia. Rothko’s early years were spent in Portland, Oregon, where he attended high school and college. He then moved to New York City in 1925 to study art.
Rothko’s early work was figurative and representational. However, he began to experiment with abstraction in the 1930s. In the 1940s, Rothko became associated with the New York School, a group of abstract expressionist artists that included Jackson Pollock, Willem de Kooning and Barnett Newman.
Rothko’s mature style emerged in the 1950s. His paintings from this period are often large-scale and color field paintings. They are characterized by simplified forms and a limited palette of colors. Rothko’s later work is often darker in tone and more ambiguous in meaning.
Rothko was deeply affected by the death of his young son in a swimming accident in 1962. His work from this period is often somber and introspective. Rothko committed suicide in 1970.
Rothko is recognized as one of the major artists of the 20th century. His work has been exhibited widely and is included in the collections of many major museums.