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Mark Rothko: A Biography Paperback – 1998
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From Publishers Weekly
Copyright 1993 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.
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Top Customer Reviews
canvases. To know him is to confront his original work
on the wall before you. Find your distance, 10, 15,
maybe 30 feet back. Yet to make sense of his
colored rectangles tearing themselves apart in fission,
as well as his earlier, quite different work, some
Breslin's book will become the standard reference, but
not perhaps the starting point. He writes engrossingly,
but the 558 pages of text, I fear, will discourage the
casual reader (who might do well to read Robert
Hughes's paragraphs in American Visions).
Still, for the motivated reader, James Breslin's bio is
awesome. The Latvian Jew, charity student at
antisemitic Yale in the early 20s, uncomfortable and
smarter than most there, comes alive, as does his love
for children and their art, as well as his tormented
first marriage to a wife commercially successful during
the Great Depression making jewelry that sold. Rothko
had higher ambitions: fine art spelled with a capital
"A". As Breslin relates, discomfort never disappeared.
Success and recognition did not go over well with
this self-described anarchist who, as a Portland
teenager, enthusiastically took in lectures by Emma
Goldman. Overall, Breslin provides a biographical and
historical foundation with which to understand Mark
Rothko's painting. I am grateful for that.
Finally, of the many biographies I've read, James EB
Breslin's stands out for another reason: in his
Afterword, he turns from Rothko to himself and
addresses his own motivations and challenges in writing
the biography.Read more ›
Delving to his roots in Russia to immigrating to the United States at an early age, Rothko turn the art world upside down with his impressionist paintings. These bold colors were a peek inside the world of an artist who felt he could change the world from within.
In the 1950s, he was commissioned to paint a series of murals for the Seagrams building new fancy restaurant Four Seasons. The largest commission at the time, Rothko saw it as an opportunity for the patrons to have a transformational experience. He worked tirelessly to create the ultimate master piece. However, ultimately he gave the money back and believed that he was selling out rather to be true to himself.
The book also goes into painful details of the final days, as Rothko took his own life.
One of the most interesting parts of the book is the afterwards at the end when Breslin explains his journey in completing this book. How he went to Russia, traveled the path of Rothko, all in the hopes to gain insight into this man. Mark Rothko: A Biography by James E. B. Breslin is an insightful look into an artistic life.
All these reviews are right, except for the idea Rothko is an impressionist. Crazy. (Repeated in one of the reviews of the Dore Ashton book!) Also Rothko himself recommended viewing his paintings from up very close rather than at a distance as someone else says here.
There's a LOT of analysis of Rothko's psychology and his work here. One reviewer calls this "mumbo jumbo." I found it often very revealing. "Small pictures place us back in the world of separate objects and distanced relations. Large pictures sweep us up and place us INSIDE a fluid space of shifting, indefinite boundaries." (Page 280 of the paperback. Rothko's recommendation--"in his provocateur mode"--to view his paintings from a distance of "eighteen inches" is on the next page.)
I read my share of biographies, and this has its own voice. It's personal. (I don't just mean the Afterword, which is a nice mix of concrete details and abstract rumination on the craft of biography.) For example, there may be a couple of dozen instances in the book where Breslin inserts an aside in quotes, often quoting himself--a quip made earlier in the book. If there's an emoticon for eye-rolling, it would go here. It's sort of cute and intimate, and--what is the word I'm looking for? Amateurish? But in a very winning way.
Once in awhile I found my self thinking Breslin's editor could have cut this volume back by a large percentage. But it's the same with Caro's LBJ, at least the 1958-64 book (which is the only one I've read).Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
This a monster of book, for Mark Rothko, and for the artistic and commercial dramas that played out in the 30s, 40s, 50s, and 60s. Read morePublished 5 months ago by Jerry E. Boorda
This book is extensive, and detailed but I found unbearable to read -- too much plodding information, but above all way too much mumbo-jumbo interpreting works of art and Rothko's... Read morePublished 6 months ago by James Kerr
Still slogging away reading this as the research seems broad and sound, certainly informative, but as a painter who admires Rothko's work, I'd be happy if Mr. Read morePublished 10 months ago by D. P.
The definitive bio on this abstract expressionist. A very scholarly work with great insight to Marcus Rothkowitz, who, in 1940, became Mark Rothko.Published on August 13, 2013 by Juana
James E B Breslin's 1993 biography "Mark Rothko" reveals an American artist tormented not only by a fear of failure but also by the suspicion of success. Read morePublished on March 20, 2012 by Edward
I expected a hard cover and it was a paperback. I expected it to be new and LOOK new. It looked used. It was shipped out by a company called Peoples Books. Read morePublished on December 23, 2011 by Paula Vollmar
at times a dense read, this provides detail about rothko's life starting from his family's origins. once you wade through to the art, this book is a extremely interesting story... Read morePublished on April 30, 2010 by J. Duncalfe