John McEwan

A Painter Writes

The Artist's Reality: Philosophies of Art

By

Yale University Press 136pp £16.95 order from our bookshop

As Christopher Rothko, son of the famous painter, writes in his introduction, this book has a long and mysterious history. Mark Rothko wrote these somewhat random and, until now, unpublished reflections in his late thirties. They are the product of a difficult time. He was struggling to make a living and to find his identity as a painter. Also his first marriage was breaking up, the relationship not helped by his wife’s discouraging his painting and putting him to work in her jewellery-design buiness. They separated for a while and divorced in 1943. It may have been during the separation that Rothko gave up painting to read mythic history and philosophy, continuing to try to find his way as an artist by putting his thoughts into words. The crisis over, he resumed painting – no doubt spurred by the abstinence of his retreat into soul-searching – and the typescript was put away, the cathartic job done. It then disappeared among his papers, its ‘Joss’ becoming something of a legend when he became famous in old age and especially after his suicide in 1970.

Sign Up to our newsletter

Receive free articles, highlights from the archive, news, details of prizes, and much more.

Follow Literary Review on Twitter

  • Last Tweets

    • 'To be clever without wanting to glory in it, put dimmer people down or make an act of covering it up (viz Boris Jo… ,
    • 'Her favourite design included a body in the shape of a horse, with a steam engine inside ... The passenger would t… ,
    • Sign up to our email newsletter below! Get free articles, highlights from the archive, and chances to win theatre… ,
    • RT : Founded in 1979, is a trusted independent source for reviews of new books across a variety of genres. A… ,
    • RT : Here we are - "Shelf Indulgence" by Ed Potten, a wonderful read, well worth your time: @Lit_Review,
    • 'Like going to a party hoping to get away as quickly as politeness allowed and at 4am finding myself still engrosse… ,
    • 'Neville never shed his sense of being the junior, and perhaps least-deserving Chamberlain.' From the archive, Mic… ,