A recently discovered book manuscript by the celebrated artist Mark Rothko offering a landmark discussion of his views on topics ranging from the Renaissance to contemporary art, criticism, and the role of art and artists in society
One of the most important artists of the twentieth century, Mark Rothko (1903–1970) created a new and impassioned form of abstract painting over the course of his career. Rothko also wrote a number of essays and critical reviews during his lifetime, adding his thoughtful, intelligent, and opinionated voice to the debates of the contemporary art world. Although the artist never published a book of his varied and complex views, his heirs indicate that he occasionally spoke of the existence of such a manuscript to friends and colleagues. Stored in a New York City warehouse since the artist’s death more than thirty years ago, this extraordinary manuscript, titled The Artist’s Reality, is now being published for the first time.
Probably written around 1940–41, this revelatory book discusses Rothko’s ideas on the modern art world, art history, myth, beauty, the challenges of being an artist in society, the true nature of “American art,” and much more. The Artist’s Reality alsoincludes an introduction by Christopher Rothko, the artist’s son, who describes the discovery of the manuscript and the complicated and fascinating process of bringing the manuscript to publication. The introduction is illustrated with a small selection of relevant examples of the artist’s own work as well as with reproductions of pages from the actual manuscript.
The Artist’s Reality willbe a classic text for years to come, offering insight into both the work and the artistic philosophies of this great painter.
About the Author
Mark Rothko was born in Russia and came to the United States with his family in 1913. A major figure in New York’s Abstract Expressionist movement, he has been the subject of retrospectives at the Museum of Modern Art, the National Gallery of Art, Washington, the Guggenheim Museum, and other major museums around the world. Christopher Rothko is a writer and psychologist and is actively involved in managing the Rothko legacy. He lives in New York City.
“The book broaches a poetics of space that would finally place Rothko’s art among the more uncommon visual achievements of the 20th Century.”—David Anfam, Art Newspaper
“A deceptively slender volume. . . . Reflects the author’s intense intellectual curiosity and ambition.”—Phoebe Hoban, New York Times
“It is unusual to find an artist with such eloquence in words, and this voice from the past, especially from the pioneer of so influential an artistic movement is a rare find.”—Jackie Wullschlager, Financial Times
“The rediscovered book manuscript . . . adds an important document to the literature of modern American art.”—Kenneth Baker, San Francisco Chronicle
“The book is an enormously important art history document because, oddly, it is unsurprising. It confirms what the best critics have always seen in Rothko’s work: the desire to go beyond the historical moment, beyond the accidental detail, beyond nation or culture, even the self, to arrive at a transcendent and universal experience, to arrive at, as he puts it, the myth.”—Bryan Appleyard, Sunday Times Magazine (UK)
“The Artist’s Reality . . . is a collection of 12 beautifully written and clearheaded essays from 1940–41. Addressing art in terms of tradition, myth, history, philosophy, form, politics, biology, and emotion, Rothko asserts the individuality and necessity of the artist, as he also reaffirms that the Abstract Expressionists were continuing an ancient tradition. This is one of the most important documents written by an Abstract Expressionist—or by an American painter.”—New York Sun
“It has . . . taken years for [Rothko’s] writings to surface. The publication of his book The Artist’s Reality only took place in 2004—34 years after he died and more like 64 years after he actually wrote it. . . . Writings on Art is the latest evidence of his revealingly eloquent ways with words.”—Christopher Andreae, Christian Science Monitor
“A document of extraordinary critical interest. Casting vivid light on its author’s intellectual outlook and motivations at a turning point in his career, it offers a framework for understanding the canonical works that he would begin to create nearly a decade later. . . . In addition to affording invaluable insight into the mind of its author, this volume is the most considerable single verbal text, in length and sustained argument, to have emerged from what we now call the New York School. . . . The text now made available as The Artist’s Reality will henceforward be indispensable to understanding the achievement of Mark Rothko from the viewpoint of its creator.”—Sheldon Nodelman, Art in America
“A wonderful gift on many levels, providing a unique insight into the worldview of one of the pivotal figures of 20th-century art. . . . Essential.”—Choice
“I do not think it is an exaggeration to say that this publication—lovingly and discreetly edited by the artist’s son, Christopher Rothko—is a major event, for to open The Artist’s Reality is to discover buried treasure. This is a fully worked-out theory of art, written by an essential American painter at the very dawn of his artistic maturity.”—Jed Perl, New Republic
“Christopher Rothko has done an excellent job of [editing the text]. . . . [The Artist’s Reality] shows an artist looking back to the entire past of art, and a few contemporary manifestations of it, in order to project himself forward from being a minor provincial artist into one whose work is sought after throughout the world.”—John Golding, New York Review of Books
“[One] of the most important documents written by an Abstract Expressionist—or by an American painter.”—Lance Esplund, New York Sun
“The Artist’s Reality: Philosophies of Art will fascinate everyone who has been enthralled by the power of Rothko’s sublime contribution to the language of abstraction.”—Richard Cork, QuARTerly Magazine
“Its appearance in a sooty folder in a New York warehouse, followed by its handsome entrance into the world in this Yale University Press edition, give it the cachet of a time-traveler, a living entity from the heady days of high modernism who steps into our discourse, making surprisingly vivid sense. . . . Rothko’s curiosity, knowledge, and methodical thoroughness are present in each of the work’s brief chapters. . . . Despite its origins far from this moment, this collection of his writings seems to me now an absolutely timely—and deeply moving—work.”—Ann Klefstad, Rain Taxi