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The Artist's Reality Kindle Edition

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Length: 176 pages Enhanced Typesetting: Enabled

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Editorial Reviews Review

Mark Rothko, the painter famous for his luminous abstract canvases, spent several years in the late 1930s and early '40s writing a book about the meaning of art. Edited by his son Christopher, Rothko's uncompleted manuscript, The Artist's Reality: Philosophies of Art, reveals a man struggling to make a case for the highest ideals of Western culture at a time when crass popular taste and American regionalism were conspiring against the values he held dear. During these years, Rothko worked in a melancholy Expressionist style that was just beginning to be influenced by Surrealism. The hovering rectangles of color that would put him on the modern art map were still a decade away. While this book will no doubt be important to Rothko scholars, it is a period piece, relying on a form of rhetoric and a belief system that can be exasperating to modern readers. Windy chapters on such topics as "The Integrity of the Plastic Process," studded with references to Plato and Leonardo, "truth" and "unity," are Rothko's stock in trade. He never mentions his own paintings and refers to a few other living artists only in passing. And yet--as Christopher Rothko points out in his clear-eyed and useful introduction--the process of wrestling ideas onto the page may have helped the artist find a personal means of expressing the "tragic emotionality" that he believed to be the essence of all great art. Rothko longed to discover a new, post-Christian "myth" that could express a unified outlook on life by embodying "the world of ideals." Little did he realize at the time that the resolution of his dilemma would be based on a radically new approach to handling paint and using color. —Cathy Curtis

From Publishers Weekly

While major 20th-century abstract artist Rothko (1903-1980) left a record of his ideas about art and method in several essays and reviews, rumors circulated about the existence of a full-length monograph on the philosophy of art. Rothko himself never brought it forth, and it was not found at his death. Probably written in the early 1940s, the newly discovered manuscript provides Rothko’s considerable insights into topics ranging from art as a form of action to plasticity, naturalism and primitivism. For Rothko, "Art is not only a form of action, it is a form of social action. For art is a form of communication." Thus beauty resides less in objects than in "a certain type of emotional exaltation which is a result of stimulation by certain qualities common to all great works of art." An introduction by Rothko’s son, Christopher, provides the details of the discovery of the manuscript as well as a nice short biography of Rothko. The whole offers fascinating insights into the ways a major artist thought about his medium and its conceptual premises.
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Product Details

  • File Size: 2392 KB
  • Print Length: 176 pages
  • Publisher: Yale University Press (March 23, 2006)
  • Publication Date: March 23, 2006
  • Sold by: Amazon Digital Services, Inc.
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B007XQ3VTG
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
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  • Word Wise: Not Enabled
  • Lending: Not Enabled
  • Enhanced Typesetting: Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #244,871 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

60 of 77 people found the following review helpful By on August 3, 2005
Format: Hardcover
One of the commercial reviews indicates that this book is a "period piece" and that description probably best describes the book. It was written in a period of time long before Rothko was working his signature style and had achieved any success.

It also didn't help that the Introduction, by the late painter's son, Christopher Rothko, was unnecessarily portentious. The later parts concerning the history of the manuscripts, also written by Christopher Rothko, do tone down the excess language and are quite interesting.

The essays themselves seem incomplete, pedestrian in spots, and extremely dated. As others have noted, Rothko doesn't talk about his own work.

Who is the audience of this book? Completists? Researchers? It can't be that many people.

Something like the publicaton of Kurt Cobain's Journals in book form several years after his suicide had relevance to that artist, even if it was a bit like peeking into somebody's diary. "The Artist's Reality" has almost no relevance to most fans of Mark Rothko and certainly none to those who appreciate his more famous style of painting.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful By S. R. Sopha on April 19, 2010
Format: Paperback
Kandinsky's "Concerning the Spiritual in Art" was my first introduction into true meaning in art. Caused upheavel in my artist reality. Rothko conferred it in this book. Philosophical and deep, will cause any artist concerned about the artifacts they leave behind to requestion their sincerety and cause. His writing is up their with Kandinsky and Motherwell.
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10 of 11 people found the following review helpful By Shalom Freedman HALL OF FAME on November 21, 2007
Format: Paperback
This book has a wonderful introduction written by the Mark Rothko's son Christopher Rothko. He explains the way some years after his father's death the manuscript was discovered, and edited. Mark Rothko never finished the work but rather left it off in draft form, perhaps as his son speculates because he became involved in his principal work, painting, again.
The book consists of a series of short essays on such subjects as 'The Artist's Dilemna' 'Art as a Natural Biological Function' 'Art as a form of Action' 'The Integrity of the Plastic Process' 'Art Reality and Sensuality' 'Plasticity' 'Space' 'Naturalism''Subject and Subject Matter'
'Beauty' ' The Attempted Myth today'.
Rothko considers the artist's ultimate reason for doing what he does. He rejects the idea that the first reason is the desire for immortalization. He rejects the idea that the artist " wishes any charity in regard to his self- assumed sacrifice" He claims instead that the Artist " wants nothing but the understanding and love of what he does."
Rothko writes profoundly and often movingly.
A highly recommended work.
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful By SharonO on May 28, 2010
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Long one of my favorite painters of the 20th Century, Mark Rothko is now one of my favorite art theorists. The Artist's Reality is lively and readable, the ideas are not written in such a way that they obfuscate meaning, as so much art theory seems to be, but to reveal, to share. I felt as though I had had an opportunity to sit down with one of the giants of Modern Art (with capitals)and listen to his early- and mid-career ruminations on philosophy, art history and art theory that eventually led to the now iconic paintings of the legendary painter. In fact, this avowedly (by the editor)"unfinished" book easily convinces the reader of the inevitability of that journey, and its ever-forward motion.
As a painter first and an art historian second, I have to say that the chapter on "The Artist's Dilemma" was worth the price of the book. But so were several other chapters. I love painters who think about painting, virtually all the time; it's obvious that Rothko was passionately involved with the act and the thinking behind the act. Perhaps it was became he came to love painting late, as an adult.
Some reviewers have apparently had a problem with Rothko's son Christopher editing the manuscript (which was in bits and pieces) for publication, its having been hidden away for many years before and after Rothko's suicide in 1970 and only recently (2004) brought out in its current form. I don't; I think the son did his father proud. Mark Rothko comes across as an intelligent, thoughtful, creative painter and man. It is a lovely book, indeed.
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Format: Paperback
I'm crazy about Rothko at this point in my life. Just finished the Breslin bio. Read my review. Loved it.

This is something else. The prose is thick. There are sentences that you have to read five times, and you're still not sure you get what Rothko is trying to say. It's like reading an English translation of German philosophy--which I've also done, and which I don't necessarily object to.

I have a tendency (as an English teacher for awhile, and a salesman for a long time) to think that if something can't be stated fairly clearly, it may not be right or accurate.

There is one brilliant idea in here. Rothko draws a distinction between TACTILE painters and ILLUSORY painters. A tactile painter may choose to paint every blade of grass, while an illusory painter (he means "someone trying to present the illusion of literal reality") will say, "That's not how it looks to the observer," and paint a less differentiated green mass. I'd take Rousseau as a great tactile type painter, although Rothko does not use him. He goes with Giotto, which I don't get at all.

Some of his points might go over better with more examples. I don't mean illustrations. You can get those online. I mean name more artists that you have in mind when you make a certain claim or generalization.

If you happen to think that Monet is a bit overrated, as I do, there's this gem: "[Cezanne] saw clearly that with the pursuit of Monet's preoccupations, all visual phenomena would be disintegrated into a series of equally material color blobs."

There are many highlights of a very general, philosophical nature, even for the Monet-lovers out there. (Rothko takes a swipe at Sargent who is one of my favorites, aargh.
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