Low Tide by Mark Rothko

    Our home page features a painting by the American Jewish artist Mark Rothko (1903-1970). It is called Low Tide, and we have chosen it because of the emotions it evokes of optimism and possibility, as well as of awe and sadness. Although Rothko is often described as an abstract artist, he saw abstraction as a means to an end rather than an end in itself, insisting on the ultimate spiritual and ethical value of art. Rothko is famous for his use of colour to express intense emotion. He saw colour, rather than line, as of primary importance for the artist.

    Rothko had a difficult life, experiencing the intense highs and lows which are so powerfully evoked in his paintings. His father died soon after the family emigrated from Russia (now Latvia) to America, and the family struggled hard to make ends meet. He achieved artistic success after just a few years of work as an artist, and became a member of the New York avant garde, although he resisted identification with any particular school of painting. He became increasingly disillusioned with the commercialism of the art world and, in the wake of the breakdown of his second marriage in his late sixties, he took his own life.

    The famous Rothko Chapel in Houston, Texas, was completed after his death. It is a meditative space filled with his paintings, and is constructed, according to Rothko’s careful instructions, in the shape of a Greek cross.