Rothko’s well-known paintings are characterized by large rectangular shapes of color used to convey deep emotion. His career spanned five decades. Rothko and his paintings are credited as crucial to the development of the non-representational art movement. Mark Rothko (1903-1970) was born in Latvia. His parents emigrated to the US in 1910. He was raised an Orthodox Jew, but later distanced himself from the synagogue.
In his work he wanted to convey the ‘human drama’ or the tragedy of human existence. To this end he based himself on old Greek myths, but also used Christian symbolism of life and death in works like Baptismal Scene (1945), Gethsemane(1945) and Entombment (ca. 1946).
Rothko moved through many artistic styles until reaching his signature 1950s abstract expressionistic style of soft, rectangular forms floating on stained fields of colour. Heavily influenced by mythology and philosophy, he was insistent that his art was filled with content and brimming with ideas.
A fierce champion of social revolutionary thought and the right to self-expression, Rothko also expounded his views in numerous essays and critical reviews.