The Artist's Reality: Philosophies of Art
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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.
have come in sixty years. It is my hope that The Artist’s Reality will give people refreshed insight into my father’s work and refine their appreciation for what his painting can communicate. My sister and I have placed the original manuscript with the National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C., where it may be consulted for whatever additional nuances it may offer. I believe that this published volume, however, comes as close as possible to the spirit of what my father intended when he wrote the
human emotionality. Throughout the era of emotional impressionism it must be noted that no society was capable of inventing a myth which could allow the representation of this emotionality in the interaction of human beings. The artist was generally successful only in his representation of a single figure, the projection of the tragic onto groupings of inanimate objects or onto a group of figures whose tragedy was implied by their lack of interaction, that is, by the fact that they gathered not
prejudices are not reprehensible; in fact, they are essential to both artist and critics. For were they not thoroughly convinced that reality is precisely as they conceive it, they could not convince us of that reality in their own work and we should have nothing at all. Each age, and each artist within that epoch, assumes certain truths or variations of it, and his devotion to it is the sum of his gifts to the rest of us. In making a definition of plasticity, therefore, we must evolve one which
Renaissance culture did not succeed in creating its own myth, and that its successive developments toward naturalism were the succession of steps by which the anecdotal myth was exterminated. The representations of the myths which the artists did employ were never convincing in relationship to the myth itself, but rather were a demonstration of their lack of mythical developments. Who would deny that Mantegna’s crucifixion is less revealing of the Christian spirit than that of Giotto, and the
and, 75; unity and, 96, 99; used by artists, 43 plastic journey/movement, 48, 77, 85 plastic method, 34 plastic unity, 80 Plato, 17, 28; concept of abstract ideas, 41; concept of beauty, 64, 67, 68, 71, 72; concept of essences, 32; concept of ideals, 28; concept of pure forms, 40; concept of reality, 40, 67–68; ideal of perfection, 68; Ion, 1; rejection of world of appearances, 32; shape principles of, 27–28, 70; skepticism of, 91; unified morality of, 98 pleasure, 63, 65, 70–71, 72, 103;