domingo, 24 de diciembre de 2017

Mark Rothko

Mark Rothko in his West 53rd Street studio, c. 1953, photograph by Henry Elkan,
courtesy Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution, Rudi Blesh Papers


Mark Rothko
Marcus Rothkowitz
(1903 -1970)

One of the preeminent artists of his generation, Mark Rothko is closely identified with the New York School, a circle of painters that emerged during the 1940s as a new collective voice in American art. During a career that spanned five decades, he created a new and impassioned form of abstract painting.

Rothko's work is characterized by rigorous attention to formal elements such as color, shape, balance, depth, composition, and scale; yet, he refused to consider his paintings solely in these terms. He explained: It is a widely accepted notion among painters that it does not matter what one paints as long as it is well painted. This is the essence of academicism. There is no such thing as good painting about nothing.

Family portrait taken in Dvinsk. From the left: Albert and Sonia Rothkowitz, a first cousin,
 and Marcus and Moise Rothkowitz, c. 1912, courtesy Kenneth Rabin


Mark Rothko was born Marcus Rothkowitz in Dvinsk, Russia (today Daugavpils, Latvia), on September 25, 1903. He was the fourth child of Jacob Rothkowitz, a pharmacist (b. 1859), and Anna Goldin Rothkowitz (b. 1870), who had married in 1886. Rothko and his family immigrated to the United States when he was ten years old, and settled in Portland, Oregon.

Rothko attended Yale University in 1921, where he studied English, French, European history, elementary mathematics, physics, biology, economics, the history of philosophy, and general psychology. His initial intention was to become an engineer or an attorney. Rothko gave up his studies in the fall of 1923 and moved to New York City.


During the 1940s Rothko's imagery became increasingly symbolic. In the social climate of anxiety that dominated the late 1930s and the years of World War II, images from everyday life--however unnaturalistic--began to appear somewhat outmoded. If art were to express the tragedy of the human condition, Rothko felt, new subjects and a new idiom had to be found. He said, "It was with the utmost reluctance that I found the figure could not serve my purposes....But a time came when none of us could use the figure without mutilating it."

Mark Rothko in his 69th Street studio, ca 1964.   Photo Hans Namuth


In their manifesto in the New York Times Rothko and Gottlieb had written: "We favor the simple expression of the complex thought. We are for the large shape because it has the impact of the unequivocal. We wish to reassert the picture plane. We are for flat forms because they destroy illusion and reveal truth." By 1947 Rothko had virtually eliminated all elements of surrealism or mythic imagery from his works, and nonobjective compositions of indeterminate shapes emerged.

Figurative associations and references to the natural world disappeared from Rothko's paintings of the late 1940s. Linear elements were progressively eliminated as asymmetrically arranged patches of color became the basis of his compositions. The paintings of 1947-1949 are sometimes referred to as multiforms to distinguish them from the more distilled compositions that follow. Certain multiforms retain the play of figure, line, and ground that Rothko employed in his works on paper from 1944-1946, and various textural effects are directly related to his experiments in watercolor and gouache.

In these multiforms the liquid paint soaks the canvas, leaving soft, indistinct edges, while whitish outlines surround some of the shapes like haloes. Rothko now relied on these shapes, which replaced the earlier biomorphic motifs, to convey emotional states. Throughout this series the artist's work reveals a greater breadth of both composition and scale and a heightened attention to color. At this point Rothko began to paint the edges of his stretched canvases, which he displayed without confining frames.

For him, eschewing representation permitted greater clarity, "the elimination of all obstacles between the painter and the idea and between the idea and the observer." As examples of such obstacles, Rothko gave "memory, history, or geometry, which are swamps of generalization from which one might pull out parodies of ideas (which are ghosts) but never an idea in itself. To achieve this clarity is, inevitably, to be understood."

Like many New York artist of his generation, Rothko struggled with categorical distinctions between abstraction and representation and his ambition to invest nonfigurative art with transcendent content that would rival the elemental role of myth and ritual in archaic culture. In this regard, "unknown" pictorial space describes a realm that somehow surpasses two dimensions while avoiding the illusive three-dimensional space of conventional representation. 

During the late 1940s, Rothko described the conception of a painting in which "shapes"--or "performers"--first emerge as "an unknown adventure in an unknown space." In the journal Possibilities he explained that these "shapes have no direct association with any particular visible experience, but in them, one recognizes the principle and passion of organisms." He later wrote: " to me is an anecdote of the spirit, and the only means of making concrete the purpose of its varied quickness and stillness."

By 1949 Rothko had introduced a compositional format that he would continue to develop throughout his career. Comprised of several vertically aligned rectangular forms set within a colored field, Rothko's "image" lent itself to a remarkable diversity of appearances.

In these works, large scale, open structure and thin layers of color combine to convey the impression of a shallow pictorial space. Color, for which Rothko's work is perhaps most celebrated, here attains an unprecedented luminosity.

His classic paintings of the 1950s are characterized by expanding dimensions and an increasingly simplified use of form, brilliant hues, and broad, thin washes of color. In his large floating rectangles of color, which seem to engulf the spectator, he explored with a rare mastery of nuance the expressive potential of color contrasts and modulations.

Mark Rothko, 1959
Photo by James Scott


Rothko largely abandoned conventional titles in 1947, sometimes resorting to numbers or colors in order to distinguish one work from another. The artist also now resisted explaining the meaning of his work. "Silence is so accurate," he said, fearing that words would only paralyze the viewer's mind and imagination. 

By 1950 Rothko had reduced the number of floating rectangles to two, three, or four and aligned them vertically against a colored ground, arriving at his signature style.

From that time on he would work almost invariably within this format, suggesting in numerous variations of color and tone an astonishing range of atmospheres and moods. 

Now applied in thin washes (often composed of both oil and egg-based media), Rothko's color achieved a new luminosity. The artist's technique appears simple, but on close examination is richly varied in its range of effects. At times, paint can be seen running upward across the surface; this is because Rothko often inverted a picture while working on it, sometimes changing the final orientation at a late stage. 

In these paintings, color and structure are inseparable: the forms themselves consist of color alone, and their translucency establishes a layered depth that complements and vastly enriches the vertical architecture of the composition. Variations in saturation and tone as well as hue evoke an elusive yet almost palpable realm of shallow space. Color, structure, and space combine to create a unique presence. In this respect, Rothko stated that the large scale of these canvases was intended to contain or envelop the viewer--not to be "grandiose," but "intimate and human."

In 1954 Rothko asked that his largest pictures be installed "so that they must be first encountered at close quarters, so that the first experience is to be within the picture." He said:

Since my pictures are large, colorful, and unframed, and since museum walls are usually immense and formidable, there is the danger that the pictures relate themselves as decorative areas to the walls. This would be a distortion of their meaning, since the pictures are intimate and intense, and are the opposite of what is decorative; and have been painted in a scale of normal living rather than an institutional scale. I have on occasion successfully dealt with this problem by tending to crowd the show rather than making it spare. By saturating the room with the feeling of the work, the walls are defeated and the poignancy of each single work...become[s] more visible.

I also hang the largest pictures so that they must be first encountered at close quarters, so that the first experience is to be within the picture. This may well give the key to the observer of the ideal relationship between himself and the rest of the pictures. I also hang the pictures low rather than high, and particularly in the case of the largest ones, often as close to the floor as is feasible, for that is the way they are painted. And last, it may be worthwhile trying to hang something beyond the partial wall because some of the pictures do very well in a confined space.

Through his pursuit of a deeply original pictorial language, Rothko maintained a commitment to profound content. Although he rarely specified a precise interpretation for these works, he believed in their potential for metaphysical or symbolic meaning. In a lecture at the Pratt Institute, Rothko told the audience that "small pictures since the Renaissance are like novels; large pictures are like dramas in which one participates in a direct way."


Rothko's work began to darken dramatically during the late 1950s. This development is related to his work on a mural commission for the Four Seasons restaurant, located in the Seagram Building in New York City. Here Rothko turned to a palette of red, maroon, brown, and black. The artist eventually withdrew from this project, due to misgivings about the restaurant as a proper setting for his work. He had, however, already produced a number of studies and finished canvases, two of which are included in the present installation. In the Seagram panels, Rothko changed his motif from a closed to an open form, suggesting a threshold or portal. This element may have been related to the architectural setting for which these works were intended.

With some exceptions, the darkened palette continued to dominate Rothko's work well into the 1960s. He developed a painstaking technique of overlaying colors until, in the words of art historian Dore Ashton, "his surfaces were velvety as poems of the night."

His work on the Rothko Chapel paintings, originally commissioned by John and Dominique de Menil for the University of St. Thomas in Houston, Texas, occupied Rothko between 1964 and 1967. In turning away from the radiance of the previous decade, Rothko heightened the perceptual subtlety of his paintings, making distinctions between shape and ground more difficult to discern. He also transformed the impact his canvases have on the experience of space, which is now characterized by a sensation of enclosure. This quality, which lends itself to meditation, can be clearly related to the spiritual nature of a chapel.

Rothko's reading of Nietzsche, the 19th-century German philosopher, suggests that his work could represent the opposition between a rational or abstract element and an emotional, primal, or tragic one (referring to Nietzsche's discussion of the polarity between an Apollonian and a Dionysian principle). Certain qualities such as radiance or the duality of light and dark have a symbolic meaning in Western culture from which Rothko clearly drew. An impression of vast space is said to represent the historical concept of the "sublime," a quasi-religious experience of limitless immensity. The installation of these canvases also produces its own sacrosanct environment.

At different times during the 1950s and 1960s, Rothko produced a substantial quantity of small works on paper. It is not certain whether these are studies for larger paintings or simply smaller variations employing a similar dynamic of form and color. Rothko had many of them mounted on panel, canvas, or board in order to simulate the presence of unframed canvases. The smaller format especially suited Rothko in 1968, when his physical activity was dramatically curtailed by a heart ailment. Rothko continued to work predominantly on paper even after he returned to a relatively large format in 1969.

In a series of brown or black and gray paintings produced from 1969-1970, Rothko divided the composition horizontally and framed the image with a white margin (created by masking the edges of the paper or canvas with tape that was later removed to expose the bare support). The serene dark zone stands out against the turbulent brushwork of the gray section, an area further modulated by the addition of ochre or blue. The sharply defined edge establishes a complex interplay between the work and the viewer, who is drawn into the painting by its sensuous surface, yet kept at a distance by the stark framing device.

In another series from this period, Rothko used a softer range of pink and blue for compositions that sometimes recall smaller works from the mid-1940s. A certain ascetic quality suggests that Rothko had embarked on a new direction, one which may have been related to the reductive work of younger artists at that time. Unlike the minimalists, however, Rothko never abandoned his conviction in the ability of abstract art to be experienced in emotionally expressive terms.

Physically ill and suffering from depression, Rothko committed suicide on February 25, 1970. At the time of his death, he was widely recognized in Europe and America for his crucial role in the development of nonrepresentational art. His vibrant, disembodied veils of color asserted the power of nonobjective painting to convey strong emotional or spiritual content. With an unwavering commitment to a singular artistic vision, Rothko celebrated the near mythic power art holds over the creative imagination.

Kate Rothko Prizel
The art cheats who betrayed my father
He was one of America's most successful and famous artists when, in 1970, he killed himself. His tragic death sparked a bitter legal battle between his daughter, aged 19, and her father's estate. Here, in a rare and moving interview on the eve of the artist's first major show in 20 years, Kate Rothko Prizel remembers the long and bitter court case, his brutal suicide and how she still mourns the loss of her father.

by Rachel Cooke
The Observer, Sunday 14 September 2008

  • Kate Rothko Prizel is a strong-looking woman with a disarming smile that she switches on and off like a flashlight. You sit opposite her, trying not to be distracted by the subliminal hum of the canvases on the walls - three early Rothkos to the right of me, and one to the left - and you wonder: how did she do it? How did she survive? Not that she even seems to know herself. 'I always tell people that 19 was the worst year of my life,' she says, with steady understatement. 'And everything has gone uphill from there.'

    The smile is duly turned on, and we gaze at one another for a moment. I can't make up my mind whether she is warning me off, or welcoming me in. Kate Rothko turned 19 almost four decades ago, in 1970; in some ways, the events we are about to discuss must feel as though they happened to another person, the facts both gilded and blurred by the weight of years. Then again, they are so starkly awful, it feels almost murderous to bring them up. What defences might I end up knocking down? It's hardly surprising that when she was younger and at medical school, Rothko would find herself categorically denying her relationship to that Rothko, or that later, when she married, she cloaked herself in her married name, Prizel, the better to be invisible.

    In 1970, on the cold morning of 25 February, the body of her father, the painter, Mark Rothko, was found in his cavernous Manhattan studio. He had overdosed on barbiturates, and cut an artery in his right arm with a razor blade. He was found in a pool of blood six by eight feet wide, wearing long johns and thick black socks. He left no note. He was 66.

    Six months later, on 26 August, Kate suffered another bereavement, less public, but just as bitter: at the age of 48, her mother, Mell, a book illustrator and Rothko's second wife, had dropped down dead as Kate's brother, Christopher, watched cartoons in the next room. The cause of death listed on her death certificate was 'hypertension due to cardiovascular disease'; however, like her estranged husband, she was a heavy drinker.

    Kate and Christopher, who was then just six years old, were now orphans (or The Orphans, as the art critic Robert Hughes referred to them some years later). But however terrible their grief, it seemed as if they would surely survive. It wasn't only that they would be OK financially; by 1970, Rothko's work was already achieving tremendous prices. It was more that Kate had always thought that 'the New York art world was the most idyllic place in which any child could grow up'; though their Rothko relatives were mostly out west and, to a degree, an unknown quantity, her father had been, in spite of his final catastrophic depression, a gregarious man, and a revered one. The family was nothing if not blessed with a multitude of friends.

    Or was it? It was the difference between the two funerals of her parents that revealed to Kate, even in the depths of her grief, that this might not, after all, be so. Perhaps the art world was not the bohemian extended family of her imagination. The two services took place in the same Manhattan funeral parlour, but they could not have been more different. After Mark's funeral, one art world viper is reputed to have remarked that it was 'the best vernissage of the season', and it is certainly true that it was well attended by the great and the good. Among the mourners were Willem de Kooning, Robert Motherwell, Philip Guston and Lee Krasner Pollock, not to mention the rows of critics, curators, and collectors. 'At my father's funeral, people were pouring out of the woodwork,' says Kate. 'But I would have to question why they were there, because only about 10 people came to my mother's. She'd known these people for 25 years, and now it was like she was... ' A footnote? 'Yes. It was disillusioning for me to see the superficiality of the art world, and that has never gone away, I must admit. It will never be that idyllic place for me again.'

    Unfortunately, there was worse to come. Within two years, Kate and her brother were fighting a legal battle of Bleak House proportions that few thought they could win - and her parents' 'friends', by now, were even thinner on the ground. 'They were waiting to see which way it was going to go. People were hesitant to talk to me. Only a few were willing to stick their necks out. Lee Krasner, for one, gave multiple interviews in which she said how unwise I was to be fighting the case.'

    Kate and Christopher sued the executors of their father's estate - his accountant, Bernard Reis, the painter Theodoros Stamos, and a professor of anthropology called Morton Levine (Levine was also, until Kate took steps to remedy the situation, Christopher's guardian) - and his gallery, the Marlborough, claiming that the former had conspired with the latter to 'waste the assets' of Rothko's estate and defraud them of their proper share. The assets were 798 paintings (then estimated to be worth at least $32m). They contended that the three trustees had conspired to sell these Rothkos to the Marlborough at less than their true market value; the gallery had, for instance, got its delighted hands on one group of 100 paintings for just $1.8m, a sum it would pay over 12 years and with no interest, with a down-payment of only $200,000.

    The case was to rumble on for more than four years, during which Kate was mostly living in a $90-a-week apartment in Brooklyn, watching what little money she had drain out of her bank account. It was to be seven long years before she had a Rothko of her own; if she wanted to see work by her father, her only option was to visit a gallery. How did she keep going? 'I don't know whether it was that I didn't allow myself to think of the possibility of losing, or whether it simply didn't cross my mind. I only know that I was convinced from a moral standpoint, and that I had a conviction that this was what I had to do, because I knew how upset my father would have been by what was going on.'

    To everyone's amazement, Kate and Christopher Rothko won, and the court issued a crushing verdict. The executors were thrown out for 'improvidence and waste verging on gross negligence'. Reis and Stamos, long-time friends of Mark Rothko, were found to have been in conflict of interest; as executors, they could not negotiate with the Marlborough because the company had both of them on its payroll. All contracts between the Marlborough and the Rothko estate were declared void, and the judge awarded damages of more than $9m against Frank Lloyd, the founder of Marlborough Fine Art, who had laundered art through myriad Liechtenstein holding companies, and the executors.

    Lee Krasner, swiftly eating her words, removed the estate of her husband, Jackson Pollock, from Marlborough's grasp, and others followed (though Marlborough Fine Art survives, even today). It was, Kate concedes, a magnificent victory - though Reis and Lloyd were, in spite of her best efforts, never punished in a criminal court for their actions. 'No, that's true. One had to make do with the satisfaction of seeing the paintings come back. The judge sat down with me several times [during the litigation] and asked me if I would make a settlement for money. But I always said no, because it wasn't about money.' Nor was it about ownership, or not in the private sense. Kate simply wanted to make sure that her father's wishes became a reality.

    Rothko may have been depressed at the end of his life, he may not have been as clear as he should have been when it came to writing a will; but with regard to his work, and where it might end up, he had long held strong views. While selling to private individuals from his studio, he would scrutinise their reactions to paintings; they had to pass a test they did not know they were taking. If they failed, they went home empty-handed, irrespective of the size of their wallets. Lighting, on which wall of a gallery a painting might hang; these things obsessed him.

    It was Marlborough's job to sell his work outside America, but so far as his legacy went, it was his wish that it should be seen by the public, and that groups of his paintings should stay together, like siblings. This was why, in the months before he died, he fell upon the idea of a Mark Rothko Foundation; this body, led by Reis, Stamos and Levine, would distribute his work to public galleries. The idea that individual works would disappear into the homes of millionaires was anathema to him.

    Unfortunately, the court did not rule on paintings that the Marlborough Gallery had already sold. 'We won, but so many didn't come back,' says Kate. 'We were too busy defending the judgment on appeal to go back and appeal for a better judgment. What I've found hardest over the years is looking at what didn't come back. It has been very... distressing. The most painful example I can give you is Homage to Matisse from 1954. It's the one painting I would really like to have; I grew up with it. I gather that it went into a vault somewhere for a number of years and then it came up for auction.'

    In 2005, the painting was sold by Christie's New York for $22.4m, a sum that was then a record for a postwar work. 'If something was offered to us in a non-auction situation, I suppose we might make a trade. But at auction, at these prices... no. It's impossible. I finally found out who owns it, and it's another collector, one who will probably never let it out of his private home.'

    Do collectors ever invite her to come and see the paintings in their homes? 'Rarely.' Nor are they inclined to make loans. 'I have written for loans on behalf of institutions, to give an extra nudge, but they are invariably refused. Ostensibly, it's because they love the painting so much. But one has to wonder: does price come into it? They are scared of damage, which is always a possibility. I can only say that when the first major retrospective took place in 1978, it was no problem to get loans; now it is increasingly difficult. I find it horrible that art is just another investment.' She laughs. 'No, I don't get invited into too many homes, and perhaps it's just as well because I would probably be very unhappy with the vase on the table in front of the painting.'

    Kate Rothko Prizel M D (she is a research pathologist) lives with her husband, an academic, and her youngest daughter in a big (but not vast) Colonial-style house in Washington. I'm sure, given what hangs on her walls, she has a good security system, but if so, it is unobtrusive; I've seen tiny terraces more fortified, and most of those probably contain only the odd David Hockney poster. What you notice immediately are not just the paintings, but the gaps: work, she tells me half-apologetically, is often on loan and, sometimes, when it comes back, the business of rehanging such large and fragile canvases gets put off - and off.

    I ask her how many paintings are still in the family. 'It's hard to put a number on things,' she says. 'We had to sell some things to pay legal fees. I can't say what we will have for ever. Christopher and I each have three children. It's clear to me that they care about the paintings, and would rather have them than cash. But there will be estate taxes one day, and here, giving to a museum does not credit towards your estate tax.'

    In the 1970s, it was Kate who was 'the point person' when galleries were putting together shows of her father's work, but these days that task falls mostly to Christopher, a psychologist who now works almost exclusively in the interests of the Rothko estate. Even so, Kate will be coming to London for the opening of Tate Modern's Rothko show, the first significant exhibition of his work to be held in Britain for more than 20 years. She is thrilled by the idea of this exhibition in particular because it is not a retrospective, but a unique gathering of Rothko's late work, including the Seagram Murals, originally commissioned to hang in the dining room of the Four Seasons Restaurant in New York, and several other series, including the very last he ever painted, known as Black on Grey.

    'Seeing these paintings standing alone may have a very different effect on the audience,' she says. 'This time, there will be no side-by-side comparisons with the bright works of the 1950s, and [thus] the audience will not have a tendency to see the darkening colours as representing a change in his mood. With retrospectives, there is often a feeling [as you approach the monochromatic late works] that this was the ultimate walk towards his suicide. But look at them in isolation, and instead you simply feel something opening up before him. I do not connect any feeling of frustration in him at this time with a frustration over where his work was going. I see these paintings as a new beginning for him rather than a reflection of his mood.

    'No one would deny that my father was very depressed towards the end of his life. I used to be very engrossed with that idea, too. There was a terrible tendency for me to see the paintings darkening, becoming less accessible emotionally, more hard-edged. I had a hard time separating them from his depression. But then I saw an exhibition at the Menil Collection in Houston, work that followed his completion of the paintings for the Rothko Chapel [commissioned by Dominique and Jean de Menil in the mid-1960s]. I hadn't been familiar with those works. It was a period when I wasn't in the studio a lot, and my father didn't have any at home. It was fascinating to see how those works had grown out of the chapel, and then how they led to the black and greys. That was the beginning of a whole new way of seeing for me.'

    When Rothko committed suicide, many of his friends thought it out of character. As the painter Hedda Sterne put it: 'Who was this man, Rothko, who killed my friend?' Was Kate surprised? 'I guess it was a shock. In one sense, it fit. I knew how depressed he was. But it still seemed so out of character - and then, he did not leave a note, which seemed even more out of character. He was a communicator, on paper and verbally. That seemed extremely strange. He'd been very ill [in 1968, Rothko had suffered an aneurysm, a result of his chronic high blood pressure]. When my mother told me what had happened on the phone, she did not tell me he had killed himself, and I presumed his death was due to one of the illnesses. So I was shocked.'

    What was her father like? 'Oh, this is always a difficult one! He was a very social person, very outgoing.' In biographies, Rothko, who was born in Dvinsk, in what is now Latvia, and who arrived on Ellis Island, New York, in 1913, is always portrayed as a determined socialist. That is why he disapproved of the Four Seasons restaurant, and why he eventually decided to keep the paintings he made for its walls and later to give them to the Tate.

    He also liked to make jokes about his peasant background. 'Well, part of that was just his humour. He liked to tell stories about his past. He was anything but a peasant. Education in the family went back three generations. He did remain close to his background. His family was never particularly supportive of his career, and didn't understand it, but there was always a weekly phonecall. He was pretty representative of immigrants of the time, in that he didn't retain his own language - I didn't even learn how to say yes or no in either Yiddish or Russian - but he would always go to the atlas and show me Latvia. He was a great storyteller. He used to tell me that he ice-skated to school. Knowing his athletic abilities, I suspect that was one thing he did not do.'

    Kate was interested in his work from early on. Her parents had received membership of the Museum of Modern Art as a baby-shower gift and, on Sundays - after Mell insisted that Rothko leave his studio for the day - the family would go there. Later, Kate remembers visiting Peggy Guggenheim, the great patron and collector, in Venice. 'She took us to Torcello in her motorboat. But the story I always tell is about how, when I was 16, I went cross-country with my father by train. His family lived on the West Coast, and my mother would fly with my brother because he was so young. What is so frustrating, looking back, is that I had three days with my father and, had I been three years older, I would have taken the opportunity to talk to him about his philosophy. But, of course, we both sat there, and for three days, neither one of us really knew what to say to the other. It was an awkward age for me, and I think he felt that awkwardness. I look back and I think: what wasted time!'

    Rothko's philosophy was, of course, complicated. He belonged to a generation of artists - his contemporaries included Pollock, Barnett Newman and Clyfford Still - who spent long periods in obscurity and poverty before they were discovered by the critics, at which point their prices rose - and rose. Perhaps this was why, post-1960, he found it so hard to accept his wealth. He paid cash for everything and, according to Robert Motherwell, if he had to go to the bank for any reason, he would slip into 'a depression as intense and prolonged as Kafka writing The Castle'.

    But it was also that he worried that money would distract from the work itself; he distrusted material success. He was, as Robert Hughes has written, 'one of the last artists in America to believe, with his entire being, that painting could carry the load of major meanings and possess the same comprehensive seriousness as the art of fresco in the 16th century or the novel in 19th-century Russia... his painting accumulated resonance by appealing to myth; but myths were in decline....'

    He was determined to think of himself as an outsider even as the riches and the praise - contemporary critics adored Rothko to the point of daffiness - heaped up at his studio door. Did these tensions - the sense you get from his work of a man waiting too long for an epiphany - contribute to his final depression, or was it also, as Lee Seldes suggests in her gripping book about the Rothko trial, that the artist knew that he had signed over too much to the Marlborough? His suicide took place on the same day that a representative from the gallery was due to visit Rothko's warehouse, to choose from the artist's hoard of paintings, something no one had ever done before (he liked to choose paintings for sale himself, and saw this visit, which he felt powerless to resist, as an invasion of privacy).

    Kate is in two minds. 'I felt it had never quite sunk in how famous he had become,' she says. 'But then, when Pop art and Op art came so hard on their heels [of the Abstract Expressionists], he felt that he had had only a tiny window of fame, and then what? I think he would have been shocked by what happened after he died because he was absolutely convinced the executors were his friends, and that they'd act in the best interests of the estate. Whether he knew what was going on with the gallery is less clear. He knew he was not... free. I suspect things were planned for a while before he died. It seemed like everything was in place. I can't say if those pressures contributed to his mood, but they would certainly seem to have helped.'

    Whatever lay behind her father's final destructive act, Kate hopes that Tate Modern's show will go some way to separating the work from the man, the paint from the biography. She would like people to see the late work as just that - late work - and to relish it for its own sake, the way we might the distinctive late bloom of any other artist, rather than regard it as a symptom of the dark clouds overhead. 'Even I have to step back from the biography at times,' she says. 'From my father as I knew him. Because, sometimes, that leads to misinterpretation.'

    For me, the late paintings stand, as much as anything, as a corrective to the earlier work, with its warming yellows and pinks. They remind you that what Rothko most feared and disdained - the idea that his work was regarded as decorative - is too narrow, or at least too easy, a way of seeing him. They are the apotheosis of the existential struggle that lies at the heart of all his work.

    And does his daughter still miss the man who gave us the paintings it has been her privilege to fight for, and to protect? I guess, thanks to his work, that her father lives on in a way that most people's parents do not. 'Yes. He does live on in that way. But the paintings are only one part of my father, and not the purely dad part. At family events, I still find myself thinking: I wish he could be here - though not, 38 years on, with the same tearfulness that I felt for... well, the first 20 years.'

    Rothko's life in brief

    1903 Marcus Rothkowitz is born in Latvia. Fearing their sons will be conscripted, the family emigrates to New York in 1913.

    1935 Rothko joins with nine other artists to form the 'The Ten', with a mission 'to protest against the reputed equivalence of American painting and literal painting'.

    1945 Marries Mary Alice Beistle, his second wife. Five years later Kathy Lynn is born; Christopher follows in 1963.

    1959 Has his first one-man show in New York at the Museum of Modern Art.

    1969 His Seagram mural paintings for the Four Seasons restaurant in New York are donated to the Tate.

    1970 Commits suicide at the age of 66.

    He says: 'I am not interested in the relationship between form and colour. The only thing I care about is the expression of man's basic emotions: tragedy, ecstasy, destiny.'

miércoles, 13 de diciembre de 2017

Andrea Camilleri

Andrea Camilleri




Andrea Camilleri
(1925 - 2019)

Andrea Camilleri (born september 6, 1925 in Porto Empedocle) is an Italian writer. He is considered one of the greatest Italian writers of both 20th and 21st centuries.

Originally from Porto Empedocle, Sicily, Camilleri began studies at the Faculty of Literature in 1944, without concluding them, meanwhile publishing poems and short stories. Around this time he joined the Italian Communist Party.

From 1948 to 1950 Camilleri studied stage and film direction at the Silvio D'Amico Academy of Dramatic Arts, and began to take on work as a director and screenwriter, directing especially plays by Pirandello and Beckett. As a matter of fact, his parents knew Pirandello and were even distant friends, as he tells in his essay on Pirandello "Biography of the changed son". His most famous works, the Montalbano series show many pirandellian elements: for example, the wild olive tree that helps Montalbano think, is on stage in his late work "The giants of the mountain"

With RAI, Camilleri worked on several TV productions, such as Inspector Maigret with Gino Cervi. In 1977 he returned to the Academy of Dramatic Arts, holding the chair of Movie Direction, and occupying it for 20 years.

In 1978 Camilleri wrote his first novel Il Corso Delle Cose ("The Way Things Go"). This was followed by Un Filo di Fumo ("A Thread of Smoke") in 1980. Neither of these works enjoyed any significant amount of popularity.

In 1992, after a long pause of 12 years, Camilleri once more took up novel-writing. A new book, La Stagione della Caccia ("The Hunting Season") turned out to be a best-seller.

In 1994 Camilleri published the first in a long series of novels: La forma dell'Acqua (The Shape of Water) featured the character of Inspector Montalbano, a fractious Sicilian detective in the police force of Vigàta, an imaginary Sicilian town. The series is written in Italian but with a substantial sprinkling of Sicilian phrases and grammar. The name Montalbano is an homage to the Spanish writer Manuel Vázquez Montalbán; the similarities between Montalban's Pepe Carvalho and Camilleri's fictional detective are remarkable. Both writers make great play of their protagonists' gastronomic preferences.

This feature provides an interesting quirk which has become something of a fad among his readership even in mainland Italy. The TV adaptation of Montalbano's adventures, starring the perfectly-cast Luca Zingaretti, further increased Camilleri's popularity to such a point that in 2003 Camilleri's home town, Porto Empedocle - on which Vigàta is modelled - took the extraordinary step of changing its official denomination to that of Porto Empedocle Vigàta, no doubt with an eye to capitalising on the tourism possibilities thrown up by the author's work.

In 1998 Camilleri won the Nino Martoglio International Book Award.

Camilleri now lives in Rome where he works as a TV and theatre director. About 10 million copies of his novels have been sold to date, and are becoming increasingly popular in the UK and North America.

In addition to the degree of popularity brought him by the novels, in recent months Andrea Camilleri has become even more of a media icon thanks to the parodies aired on an RAI radio show, where popular comedian, TV-host and impression artist Fiorello presents him as a raspy voiced, caustic character, madly in love with cigarettes and smoking (Camilleri is well-known for his love of tobacco).

He received an honorary degree from University of Pisa in 2005.



Andrea Camilleri, beloved creator of Inspector Montalbano, dies aged 93

One of Italy’s most popular authors, Camilleri wrote 23 novels starring his Sicilian detective, selling more than 30m copies around the world

Alison Flood and Angela Giuffrida in Rome
17 JULY, 2019

One of Italy’s most popular authors and creator of the Inspector Montalbano series, Andrea Camilleri has died at the age of 93.
Camilleri, who was born in Sicily in 1925, was taken to hospital in Rome in June after going into cardiac arrest.
The author had written a handful of historical novels when, in 1994 at the age of almost 70, he wrote The Shape of Water, the first book starring his now famous Sicilian detective. Set in the fictional town of Vigata, Camilleri was originally going to call his central detective The Commissioner, but decided to pay tribute to the Spanish writer Manuel Vázquez Montalbán, the Spanish author of novels about the investigator Pepe Carvalho.
The Montalbano series now runs to more than two dozen books, and has been translated into 32 languages, with more than 30m copies sold. The Potter’s Field, translated into English by Stephen Sartarelli, won Camilleri the International Dagger, the highest foreign honour of the British Crime Writers Association. The Italian television adaptation, screened on BBC Four and in 65 other countries, has brought tourists by the busload to Sicily. The town on which Vigata is based, Camilleri’s home town of Porto Empedocle, is so proud of its connection that it officially changed its name to Porto Empedocle Vigata in 2003.
Camilleri published the 27th Montalbano novel, Il cuoco dell’Alcyon, in 2018. The final novel in the series was written 13 years ago, but has been kept in his publisher’s Palermo offices for safekeeping. “When I get fed up with him or am not able to write any more, I’ll tell the publisher: publish that book. Sherlock Holmes was recovered … but it will not be possible to recover Montalbano. In that last book, he’s really finished,” he said in 2012.
Charting a changing Italy alongside the series of crimes solved by Salvo Montalbano, Camilleri has said that he “deliberately decided to smuggle into a detective novel a critical commentary on my times”. His targets have ranged from Silvio Berlusconi to George W Bush, with the mafia and the Vatican always in the background.
In an interview with the Guardian in April, Camilleri said he had been determined to keep mafia bosses in secondary roles. “Not because I fear them,” he said. “But I believe that writing about mafiosi often makes heroes out of them. I’m thinking of The Godfather, where Marlon Brando’s superb performance distracts us from the realisation that he also commissioned murders. And this is a gift that I have no intention offering to the mafia.”
In a recent episode of the Montalbano television show, a pro-migrant message drew anger from supporters of Italy’s far-right deputy prime minister, Matteo Salvini; Camilleri had become a prominent critic of his country’s rightwing populist coalition government, telling the Guardian that “Salvini reminds me of a member of the fascist regime”.
He added: “The great Sicilian writer Leonardo Sciascia once told a story: At the dawn of fascism, a man asked a blind peasant what the future held. The peasant quipped, ‘even if I’m blind, it all looks black’. Today I’m as blind as that peasant. And my answer would be the same.”
Among the first to play tribute was actor Luca Zingaretti, who plays the title role in Inspector Montalbano.
“In the end you caught me off guard and left us,” he wrote in an emotional post on Instagram. “Despite the increasingly tragic news, I hoped until the last that you would open your eyes and address us with one of your sentences, for all to listen to and conserve …. You have now departed and left me with an emptiness that can’t be filled. But I know that each time I say, even alone, in my head, that ‘I am Montalbano!’ then you will have left smiling, perhaps smoking a cigarette and winking at me, as a sign of understanding, like the last time we met in Siracusa. Farewell maestro and friend. Rest in peace.”
Sergio Mattarella, the Italian president, said the death of Camilleri “leaves a vacuum in Italian culture and inside those who loved reading his stories”, while premier Giuseppe Conte described Camilleri as “a master of irony and wisdom”.
“With boundless creativity, he told the story of his Sicily and his rich fantasy world,” Conte added. “We lose a writer, an intellectual, who was able to speak to everyone.”


Inspector Salvo Montalbano

(excluding short stories)
  1. The Shape of Water. Picador. 2003 [2002]. (La forma dell'acqua — 1994)
  2. The Terracotta Dog. Picador. 2004 [2002].  (Il cane di terracotta — 1996)
  3. The Snack Thief. Thorndike Press. 2004 [2003]. (Il ladro di merendine — 1996)
  4. The Voice of the Violin. Picador. 2005 [2003]. (La voce del violino — 1997)
  5. Excursion to Tindari. Picador. 2006 [2005]. (La gita a Tindari — 2000)
  6. The Scent of the Night. Picador. 2007 [2005].  (L'odore della notte — 2001)
  7. Rounding the Mark. Picador. 2007 [2006]. (Il giro di boa — 2003)
  8. The Patience of the Spider. Picador. 2008 [2007]. (La pazienza del ragno — 2004)
  9. The Paper Moon. Picador. 2008. (La luna di carta — 2005)
  10. August Heat. Picador. 2009. (La vampa d'agosto — 2006)
  11. The Wings of the Sphinx. Mantle. 2009. (Le ali della sfinge — 2006)
  12. The Track of Sand. Mantle. 2011 [2010]. (La pista di sabbia — 2007)
  13. The Potter's Field. Mantle. 2012 [2011]. (Il campo del vasaio — 2008)
  14. The Age of Doubt. Mantle. 2012.  (L'età del dubbio — 2008)
  15. The Dance of the Seagull (it). Mantle. 2013. (La danza del gabbiano — 2009)
  16. Treasure Hunt (it). Mantle. 2013. (La caccia al tesoro — 2010)
  17. Angelica's Smile (it). 2014. (Il sorriso di Angelica — 2010)
  18. Game of Mirrors (it). 2015. (Il gioco degli specchi — 2011)
  19. Blade of Light (it). Picador. 2015. (UK edition: US edition has title A Beam of Light, Penguin, (Una lama di luce — 2012)
  20. A Voice in the Night (it). Penguin Books. 2016. (Una voce di notte — 2012)
  21. Un covo di vipere (it) — 2013 —  Editore: Sellerio Editore Palermo
  22. La piramide di fango (it) — 2014
  23. La giostra degli scambi (it) – 2015
  24. L'altro capo del filo (it) — 2016
  25. La rete di protezione (it) — 2017

(including Montalbano's short stories)
  • Gli arancini di Montalbano (1999) 
  • Biografia di un figlio cambiato (2000) 
  • Il birraio di Preston (1995) 
  • La bolla di componenda (1993)
  • La concessione del telefono (1998) 
  • La concessione del telefono: versione teatrale dell'omonimo romanzo (2005) 
  • Il corso delle cose (1978; revised edition, 1998) 
  • Il diavolo: tentatore, innamorato (2005) 
  • Favole del tramonto (2000) 
  • Un filo di fumo (1980)
  • Il gioco della mosca (1995) 
  • Gocce di Sicilia (2001) (Texts originally published in the Almanacco dell'Altana between 1995 and 2000.)
  • Le inchieste del commissario Collura (2002) 
  • La linea della palma: Saverio Lodato fa raccontare Andrea Camilleri (2002) 
  • Il medaglione (2005) 
  • Un mese con Montalbano (1998) (Thirty short stories)
  • Montalbano a viva voce (2002) (Two audio CDs)
  • La mossa del cavallo (1999) 
  • L'ombrello di Noe (2002) 
  • Le parole raccontate: piccolo dizionario dei termini teatrali (2001) 
  • La paura di Montalbano (2002) (Six short stories)
  • The Fourth Secret (2014), a short story taken from La paura di Montalbano
  • La Pensione Eva: romanzo (2006) 
  • La presa di Macallè (2003) (Novel in the dialect of Sicily)
  • La prima indagine di Montalbano (2004) 
  • Privo di titolo (2005) 
  • Racconti quotidiani (2001) 
  • Il re di Girgenti (2001) 
  • Romanzi storici e civili (2004) 
  • La scomparsa di Patò: romanzo (2000) 
  • Hunting Season (2014) La stagione della caccia (1992, 1998) 
  • Storie di Montalbano (2002) 
  • La strage dimenticata (1997) 
  • I teatri stabili in Italia (1898–1918) (1959)
  • Teatro (2003)
  • La testa ci fa dire: dialogo con Andrea Camilleri (2000) 
  • Vi racconto Montalbano: interviste (2006) 
  • Il colore del sole (2007)
  • Le pecore ed il pastore (2007)
  • La novella di Antonello da Palermo (2007)
  • Voi non sapete (2007)
  • Maruzza Musumeci (2007)
  • Il tailleur grigio (2008)
  • Il casellante (2008)
  • La muerte de Amalia Sacerdote (2008)
  • Un sabato, con gli amici (2009)
  • Il sonaglio (2009)
  • La rizzagliata (2009)
  • La tana delle vipere (2009)
  • Il nipote del Negus (2010)
  • L'intermittenza (2010)