A book of heroic dimensions, this is the first full-length biography of one of the greatest artists of the twentieth century—a man as fascinating, difficult, and compelling as the paintings he produced. Drawing on exclusive access to Mark Rothko’s personal papers and over one hundred interviews with artists, patrons, and dealers, James Breslin tells the story of a life in art—the personal costs and professional triumphs, the convergence of genius and ego, the clash of culture and commerce. Breslin offers us not only an enticing look at Rothko as a person, but delivers a lush, in-depth portrait of the New York art scene of the 1930s, ’40s, and ’50s—the world of Abstract Expressionism, of Pollock, Rothko, de Kooning, and Klein, which would influence artists for generations to come.
"In Breslin, Rothko has the ideal biographer—thorough but never tedious, a good storyteller with an ear for the spoken word, fond but not fawning, and possessed of a most rare ability to comment on non-representational art without sounding preposterous."—Robert Kiely, Boston Book Review
"Breslin impressively recreates Mark Rothko’s troubled nature, his tormented life, and his disturbing canvases. . . . The artist’s paintings become almost tangible within Breslin’s pages, and Rothko himself emerges as an alarming physical force."—Robert Warde, Hungry Mind Review
"This remains beyond question the finest biography so far devoted to an artist of the New York School."-Arthur C. Danto, Boston Sunday Globe
"Clearly written, full of intelligent insights, and thorough."—Hayden Herrera, Art in America
"Breslin spent seven years working on this book, and he has definitely done his homework."-Nancy M. Barnes, Boston Phoenix
"He’s made the tragedy of his subject’s life the more poignant."—Eric Gibson, The New Criterion
"Mr. Breslin’s book is, in my opinion, the best life of an American painter that has yet been written . . . a biographical classic. It is painstakingly researched, fluently written and unfailingly intelligent in tracing the tragic course of its subject’s tormented character."—Hilton Kramer, New York Times Book Review, front page review
James E. B. Breslin (1936-1996) was professor of English at the University of California, Berkeley, and author of From Modern to Contemporary: American Poetry, 1945-1965 and William Carlos Williams: An American Artist.
Table of Contents
1: Parnassus on 53rd Street
3: New Haven/New York
4: Starting Out in the Depression
5: Working for the WPA
6: "All-Out War"
7: "’Globalism’ Pops Into View"
8: "A New Life"
9: "An Art That Lives and Breathes"
10: Rothko’s New Vision
12: The Dark Paintings
13: The Seagram Murals
14: Rothko’s Image
15: The Harvard Murals
16: The Houston Chapel
17: Rothko’s Aneurysm
18: The Gift to the Tate
19: Rothko’s Suicide