Mark Rothko

I am 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 shows that I can 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 relationship, then you miss the point.

Both Jackson Pollock and Mark Rothko are labeled Abstract Expressionists – but look how different they are!  That’s why Rothko is also called a Color Field Painter.

Here are some questions for you to think about as you watch the video:

  • What did Rothko want his paintings to do?
  • What was his background?
  • What was his personality like?
  • Do you see any similarities between him and Pollock?  Between him and Van Gogh?
  • How did the events of the twentieth century shape his work?
  • What did he answer to the question of how long it took him to do a painting?  What did he mean?
  • Does it surprise you to see how artists struggle to find their style?
  • What changed his mind about going through with the Seagram’s commission?
  • Do you agree?
  • Why didn’t he fit in with Pop Art?
  • What did he offer to do in Germany?
  • What do you think of his chapel in Texas?
  • How did Rothko’s life end?
  • Do you agree with Schama about the effect of Rothko’s paintings?


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