What sets Rothko’s works apart from other painters of the time is that he went against what was considered the norm for painting. In fact, Rothko went against all conventional art forms, landscapes, cityscapes and interior scenes with figures – all popular subject matter at the time. He painted from emotion rather than from what he observed. Rothko’s large blocks of colour and shapes take the viewer on an emotional journey or one that he hoped would move them spiritually.
Rothko himself was born in Latvia but moved to America as a child. In fact, he only became a painter later in life when he studied under Max Weber. Rothko was inspired by Milton Avery who was a modernist painter at the time and whose use of colour affected Rothko’s own style – Avery was his muse so to speak.
As part of the exhibition launching in September, visitors to the Gemeentemuseum in The Hague can expect to see Rothko’s more classic style paintings as well as works that are not as well-known to the general public – works that demonstrate his transition towards surrealism and abstraction. Expect to learn about this transition which will be documented as part of the study. You’ll also discover important connections between Rothko and Dutch modernist artist Piet Mondrian, whose works can also be seen in the Gemeentemuseum in The Hague. To Rothko, Mondrian was “the most sensual artist” he had come to know during that time.