The most unexpectedly uplifting and consoling artist of the 20th century was the abstract painter Mark Rothko, the high priest of grief and loss who spent the latter part of his career turning out a succession of sublime and sombre canvases that spoke, as he put it, of the ‘tragedy of being human’.
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“The most unexpectedly uplifting and consoling artist of the 20th century was the abstract painter Mark Rothko, the high priest of grief and loss who spent the latter part of his career turning out a succession of sublime and sombre canvases that spoke, as he put it, of the ‘tragedy of being human’ — and who, in 1970, ended his own life at the age of 66 in his studio in New York.
Born in Dvinsk, Russia, Rothko emigrated to the United States at the age of ten and immediately grew to despise the aggressive good cheer and steely optimism of his adopted land. Appalled by the sentimentality around him, he learnt to make art that was insular, unrelenting, sombre and oriented towards pain. It was, one critic said, the visual equivalent of a condemned prisoner’s last gasp. Rothko’s favourite colours were a burnt burgundy, dark grey, pitch black and blood red, occasionally, alleviated by a sliver of yellow…”
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