• Mark Rothko is the inspiration and guiding light of our first edition of Artfair Portland.

  • Rothko was born in Russia in 1903 and came to Portland in 1913. He was a brilliant student and graduated from Lincoln High School with honors in 1920. As a young man Rothko was a passionate and gifted defender of worker’s and women’s rights.

  • After two years at Yale he became a student of the avant garde painter Archille Gorky and the cubist Max Weber. From Weber Rothko adopted an artistic strategy that emphasized emotion and spiritual power. In 1929 he began giving lessons to children at the Brooklyn Jewish Center which he continued until 1952. He included some of his elementary students’ work at his first one man show at the Portland (Maine) Art Museum in 1933.

  • Rothko’s style matured slowly as he worked through representational and mythological themes. With other artists in his circle he studied Jung and Freud. The most powerful influence on his most transcendent works was the German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche.

  • He began to see art as a vehicle for liberation from the anguish of modern consciousness. After a period of surrealism Rothko ultimately took Nietzsche’s use of tragedy into complete aesthetic abstraction.

  • From 1948 Rothko concentrated on what critics called ‘multiforms’, broad patches of muted color on large vertical canvases. For Rothko these organic forms contained a ‘life force’, a direct experience of the mysteries of human existence that transcended both the figure and the myth behind the figure. These large paintings enveloped the viewer, took them inside the ‘life force’ and culminated in his spiritual masterpieces at the Rothko Chapel.