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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.
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 ›
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
Because Rothko's paintings are so very moving I was disappointed to find this highly regarded biography so very dry. Read morePublished 1 month ago by Judith L. Roberts
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 11 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 13 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 16 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
The father of modern impressionism Mark Rothko was a complex figure in the art world. James Breslin has done a thorough analysis of this complex figure. Read morePublished on February 15, 2012 by Dr. Wilson Trivino