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Marcus Yakovlevich Rothko (Rothkowitz)

Also Known As: "Marcus Rothkowitz", "Mark Rotkovich", "Mark Rothko"
Birthplace: Dvinsk, Daugavpils, Daugavpils pilsēta, Daugavpils pilsēta, Latvia
Death: Died in New York, New York, United States
Cause of death: suicide
Place of Burial: East Marion, Suffolk, New York, USA
Immediate Family:

Son of Jacob Rothkowitz and Katherine Anna Rothkowitz
Husband of Edith Rothko and Mary Alice Rothko
Ex-husband of <private> Rothkowitz (Sachar)
Father of <private> Rothkowitz; <private> Rothkowitz; <private> Prizel (Rothko) and <private> Rothko
Brother of Sonia Rabinowitz; Morris Moishe Rothkowitz and Albert Roth

Occupation: Latvian-born American painter/abstract expressionist
Managed by: Private User
Last Updated:
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Immediate Family

About Mark Rothko

He was a Latvian-born American painter. He is classified as an abstract expressionist, although he himself rejected this label, and even resisted the classification as an "abstract painter".

Mark Rothko (Marcus Rothkowitz, Mark Rotkovich) was born in Dvinsk, Vitebsk Province, Russian Empire (now Daugavpils, Latvia). His father, Jacob Rothkowitz, was a pharmacist and an intellectual, who provided his children with a secular and political, rather than religious, upbringing. Unlike Jews in most cities of Czarist Russia, those in Dvinsk had been spared from violent outbreaks of anti-Semitic pogroms. However, in an environment where Jews were often blamed for many of the evils that befell Russia, Rothko’s early childhood was plagued with fear.

Despite Jacob Rothkowitz's modest income, the family was highly educated, and able to speak Russian, Yiddish and Hebrew. Following Jacob's return to Orthodox Judaism, he sent Marcus, his youngest son, to the cheder at age 5, where he studied the Talmud although his elder siblings had been educated in the public school system.

Emigration from Russia to the U.S.:

Fearing that his sons were about to be drafted into the Czarist army, Jacob Rothkowitz emigrated from Russia to the United States, following the path of many other Jews who left Daugavpils in the wake of Cossack purges. These émigrés included two of Jacob's brothers, who managed to establish themselves as clothing manufacturers in Portland, Oregon, a common profession among Eastern European immigrants. Marcus remained in Russia with his mother and elder sister Sonia. They joined Jacob and the elder brothers later, arriving at Ellis Island in the winter of 1913 after twelve days at sea. Jacob's death a few months later left the family without economic support. One of Marcus’ great aunts did unskilled labor, Sonia operated a cash register, while Marcus worked in one of his uncle’s warehouses, selling newspapers to employees.

Marcus started school in the United States in 1913, quickly accelerating from third to fifth grade, and completed the secondary level with honors at Lincoln High School in Portland, in June 1921 at the age of seventeen. He learned his fourth language, English, and became an active member of the Jewish community center, where he proved adept at political discussions. Like his father, Rothko was passionate about such issues as workers’ rights and women's right to contraception.

He received a scholarship to Yale based on academic performance, but it has been suggested that Yale only made this offer in order to lure Rothko’s friend, Aaron Director, with a similar proposal. After one year, the scholarship ran out and Rothko took menial jobs to support his studies.

Rothko found the "WASP" Yale community to be elitist and racist. He and Aaron Director started a satirical magazine, The Yale Saturday Evening Pest, which lampooned the school’s stuffy, bourgeois attitude.Following his second year, Rothko dropped out, and did not return until he was awarded an honorary degree forty-six years later.

Early career:

In the autumn of 1923, Rothko found work in New York's garment district and took up residence on the Upper West Side. While visiting a friend at the Art Students League of New York, he saw students sketching a model. According to Rothko, this was the beginning of his life as an artist. Even his self-described "beginning" at the Art Students League of New York was not whole-hearted commitment; two months after he returned to Portland to visit his family, he joined a theater group run by Clark Gable’s wife, Josephine Dillon. Whatever his theatrical ability may have been, he did not have the appearance typically associated with successful commercial actors, and professional acting seemed an improbable career.

Returning to New York, Rothko briefly enrolled in the New School of Design, where one of his instructors was the artist Arshile Gorky. This was probably his first encounter with a member of the "avant-garde". That autumn, he took courses at the Art Students League of New York taught by still-life artist Max Weber, who was also a Russian Jew. It was due to Weber that Rothko began to see art as a tool of emotional and religious expression, and Rothko’s paintings from this era portray a Weberian influence.


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Mark Rothko's Timeline

September 25, 1903
Daugavpils, Daugavpils pilsēta, Daugavpils pilsēta, Latvia
February 25, 1970
Age 66
New York, New York, United States