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The Artist's Reality: Philosophies of…

The Artist's Reality: Philosophies of Art (edition 2006)

by Mark Rothko, Christopher Rothko (Editor), Kate Prizel Rothko (Contributor)

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Title:The Artist's Reality: Philosophies of Art
Authors:Mark Rothko
Other authors:Christopher Rothko (Editor), Kate Prizel Rothko (Contributor)
Info:Yale University Press (2006), Paperback, 176 pages

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The Artist's Reality: Philosophies of Art by Mark Rothko



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Let me first state that I love Rothko's work and am also a fan of the play Red (which is about Rothko). I should also add that the written works published in this book were never polished and completed by Rothko, the manuscript having been discovered after his death. Therefore, anyone reading it should take this into account before setting expectations.

While this book is interesting and has some nice insight, I felt as if I knew Rothko better through his artistic compositions. Maybe that's because visual art is his native language, and he's more fluent in light, shapes, and color than in the written word. There are some gaps and rough spots that made the book feel incomplete, but the volume still serves as an introduction to the artist's philosophy and perspective on the state of the art world during his lifetime.

This book will be primarily of interest to Rothko's fans and admirers, and there are a few gleanings for art students. That said, there are some wonderful quotes about art and artists that I really enjoyed. ( )
  Neftzger | May 7, 2015 |
One of the most important artists of the twentieth century, Mark Rothko (1903–1970) created a new and impassioned form of abstract painting over the course of his career. Rothko also wrote a number of essays and critical reviews during his lifetime, adding his thoughtful, intelligent, and opinionated voice to the debates of the contemporary art world. Although the artist never published a book of his varied and complex views, his heirs indicate that he occasionally spoke of the existence of such a manuscript to friends and colleagues. Stored in a New York City warehouse since the artist's death more than thirty years ago, this extraordinary manuscript, titled The Artist's Reality, is now being published for the first time.Probably written around 1940–41, this revelatory book discusses Rothko's ideas on the modern art world, art history, myth, beauty, the challenges of being an artist in society, the true nature of 'American art,” and much more. The Artist's Reality also includes an introduction by Christopher Rothko, the artist's son, who describes the discovery of the manuscript and the complicated and fascinating process of bringing the manuscript to publication. The introduction is illustrated with a small selection of relevant examples of the artist's own work as well as with reproductions of pages from the actual manuscript.The Artist's Reality will be a classic text for years to come, offering insight into both the work and the artistic philosophies of this great painter.
  GalenWiley | Apr 12, 2015 |
originally appeared on my blog, http://smallpressures.blogspot.com

OK, so Mark Rothko was not a writer. This is apparent in this recently discovered text, published in 2004 by Yale UP but probably written during the late 1930's or early 1940's. His prose is dense and sometimes circular, he lets his bitterness about other, more commercially successful artists pop up in the middle of seemingly unrelated chapters, and he creates obscure definitions for artistic principles that he doesn't clearly define.

That having been said, The Artist's Reality is still a gem, if only because you get a tiny glimpse into the mind of one of the 20th century's most remarkable painters. Having just read Rothko's "philosophies," I am not sure I understand his work any more than I did before, and readers looking for insight into his color field paintings won't find much in the way of new clarity, as the editor, Rothko's son, warns. But it sure is delightfully bitchy fun listening to him make fun of Maxfield Parrish.

And there are some lovely sentences in this slim text, such as when Rothko proclaims:

Therefore art, like philosophy, is of its own age; for the partial truths of each age differ from those of other ages, and the artist, like the philosopher, must constantly adjust eternity, as it were, to all the specifications of the moment.

There is something really striking about this sentence, because among the meandering construction and totally useless little phrases to trip over like "as it were," there is this tiny gem of a phrase: "must constantly adjust eternity."

The whole book is like that -- a genius who knows his own mind and yet is struggling with words to make it clear. It's really wonderful in its rawness. We have to remember that Rothko himself did not publish the book, maybe for good reason, and did not have the final edit, since the manuscript was (thankfully!) unearthed from his files long after his death.
  AngieK | Sep 7, 2009 |
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Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0300115857, Paperback)

Mark Rothko, the painter famous for his luminous abstract canvases, spent several years in the late 1930s and early '40s writing a book about the meaning of art. Edited by his son Christopher, Rothko's uncompleted manuscript, The Artist's Reality: Philosophies of Art, reveals a man struggling to make a case for the highest ideals of Western culture at a time when crass popular taste and American regionalism were conspiring against the values he held dear. During these years, Rothko worked in a melancholy Expressionist style that was just beginning to be influenced by Surrealism. The hovering rectangles of color that would put him on the modern art map were still a decade away. While this book will no doubt be important to Rothko scholars, it is a period piece, relying on a form of rhetoric and a belief system that can be exasperating to modern readers. Windy chapters on such topics as "The Integrity of the Plastic Process," studded with references to Plato and Leonardo, "truth" and "unity," are Rothko's stock in trade. He never mentions his own paintings and refers to a few other living artists only in passing. And yet--as Christopher Rothko points out in his clear-eyed and useful introduction--the process of wrestling ideas onto the page may have helped the artist find a personal means of expressing the "tragic emotionality" that he believed to be the essence of all great art. Rothko longed to discover a new, post-Christian "myth" that could express a unified outlook on life by embodying "the world of ideals." Little did he realize at the time that the resolution of his dilemma would be based on a radically new approach to handling paint and using color. —Cathy Curtis

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 17:59:36 -0400)

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Yale University Press

2 editions of this book were published by Yale University Press.

Editions: 0300102534, 0300115857

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