Mark Rothko: Art of Darkness

1998, Kate Rothko Prizel and Christopher Rothko / Tate Gallery

Sketch for "Mural No. 4," 1958, from the Seagram series

Mark Rothko is the great thundercloud of 20th century American painting, a man who struggled to find a way for mere pigment to summon immense reservoirs of feeling, and who took his own life when the struggle proved too much. This is why one of the most baffling episodes in Rothko's story has to do with the Seagram murals, a suite of vast, brooding canvases he produced for Manhattan's sparkling Four Seasons restaurant. Rothko was an artist who could say, and mean it: "The sense of the tragic is always with me when I paint." And the Four Seasons is the...

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