White Center (1950)
Original painting by Mark Rothko

Sitting in front of a painting by Mark Rothko can be surreal experience. If you are the museum goer who breezes through the collection, his painting may not be memorable. However if you sit and take the time to experience his work, the depths of the paintings will become visible. This painting, White Center 1950, sold for $72.8M in 2007 to the royal family of Qatar.

Rothko himself described his rectangular fields of color and light paintings as possessing a more organic structure and as self-contained units of human expression. For him, these blurred blocks of various colors, devoid of landscape or the human figure, possessed their own life force. They contained a “breath of life” he found lacking in most figurative painting of the era.

Born in Russia as Marcus Rothkowitz in 1903 to Jewish parents, Mark Rothko came to be after emigrating at the age of 10 to the Portland, Oregon in 1913. However he retained his birth name up until the beginnings of WWII and anti-semitism was sweeping across Europe. In 1938, he became a US citizen and changed his name to Mark Rothko prompted by fears that the growing Nazi influence in Europe might provoke sudden deportation of American Jews.

Leaving Oregon in the 1920’s, Rothko dropped out of Yale and later enrolled at the New York School of Design where he began his career as an artist. However at the end of his sophomore year, Rothko again dropped out and did not return until he was awarded an honorary degree forty-six years later. (source: Wikipedia)

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