Rothko Roundup: Four Books on the Abstract Expressionist

‘A painting is not about an experience. It is an experience.’ – Mark Rothko

Mark Rothko is often regarded as one of the most important and influential artists of the twentieth century. He pioneered a new form of abstract expressionism known as colour field painting, which, in its painterly serenity, was a complete contrast to the violent splatters of his contemporary Jackson Pollock’s drip paintings. To coincide with the anniversary of Rothko’s death, we have brought together a group of some favourite books on the artist, including a new account of his Jewish heritage, his own treatise on painting and comprehensive catalogues of his work.


The Artist's Reality1. The Artist’s Reality: Philosophies of Art
Mark Rothko and Christopher Rothko

Unpublished for more than 30 years after Rothko’s death, The Artist’s Reality is an account by Rothko himself that tackles the big issues and ideas that were facing him in the early 1940s, probably when the text was written. The book features a hugely important and thought-provoking discussions, including the nature of art, what it meant to be an artist in America during this period, as well as the importance of myths within an art historical narrative. This publication provides an unrivalled insight into the mind of artist and is introduced with an essay by Rothko’s son, Christopher.


Mark Rothko: Works on Canvas 2. Mark Rothko: The Works on Canvas
David Anfam

The entirety of Rothko’s works on canvas and panel are documented in the first volume of this catalogue raisonné. The publication features over 800 colour plates, where one is able to see in wonderful detail the soft, serene and bold blocks of colour that make Rothko such a popular artist. An introductory text accompanies these gorgeous images and provides an outline of the essential features in Rothko’s art.


Mark Rothko: Toward the Light in the Chapel 3. Mark Rothko: Toward the Light in the Chapel
Annie Cohen-Solal

As well as a painter, Rothko was a deeply spiritual individual. The artist’s family were Jewish and had emigrated from Russia to the United States in the 1910s. Towards the Light in the Chapel makes a new and important link between Rothko’s Jewish heritage and his pioneering, popular and enduring works of art. This publication forms part of Yale’s Jewish Lives series of books, that explore the Jewish experience across a vast period of time, from antiquity to the present day.


Mark Rothko

4. Mark Rothko
Jeffrey S. Weiss et al. 

The formal properties of Rothko’s art are the focus of this publication, which reproduces over 100 of the artist’s paintings, drawings and prints. Alongside the rectangle paintings for which Rothko is best known, earlier intriguing  depictions of mythological scenes and New York city are included in this publication. These images are accompanied with essays on Rothko’s style, biography and the impact he has had on contemporary artists.

The latest Yale art catalogue, featuring new and recent titles, is now available online:

Featured image: Mark Rothko, No. 14, by naotakem.

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