Artstor is collaborating with the Rothko Family Collections to share approximately 1,300 images of the works of Mark Rothko in the Digital Library. The collection in Artstor will consist of paintings on canvas and works on paper spanning Rothko's entire career. The digital images of Rothko's paintings have been created from high-quality color transparences, originally produced for the Mark Rothko catalogue raisonné. The images of drawings and sketches will be digitized from 35 mm slides, many photographed from original sketchbooks. The Family will provide cataloging information for these digitized images, many of which depict works by Rothko that have not been previously published.
Mark Rothko (1903–1970) was born Marcus Rotkovitch in Dvinsk, Russia (now Daugavpils, Latvia), later emigrating with his family to Portland, OR in 1913. After attending Yale University from 1921–1923, Rothko moved to New York. Although largely self-taught, he did take two courses at the Art Students League, one under Max Weber. During his early career, Rothko worked in a figurative style, which became increasingly symbolic as he was influenced by the Surrealists during the mid-1940s. Over time, the rectangular layers that served as backdrops for his surrealist biomorphic forms would come to the foreground, as Rothko adapted his technique to dilute his pigments and apply them to the canvas in thin, overlapping washes of luminous color. By 1946, Rothko had eliminated all figurative elements from his work, creating non-objective compositions that relied solely on shape and color to convey moods and emotional states. These transitional "multi-form" works eventually led to Rothko's mature, abstract style, as he further simplified his compositions to include only two to four floating rectangles against a colored ground. After 1950, Rothko's signature style would remain consistent, even as his palette darkened dramatically over the course of his later career.