Mark Rothko (1903–1970)

VISITING MARK ROTHKO’S STUDIO in the 1960s was always a moving experience, artistically, and a prickly one, socially. Prickly because of the painter’s special pride, which could queer any openness in being with him and make it difficult to speak admiringly or to be casual. His visitors were given to understand that they were in the presence of a supreme master, one who might happen to take ill even the most spontaneous respect. This pride was hardly that of the fast gun who knows he’s very good, or the beleaguered genius, upon whom all eyes were fixed. There was no one “out there” with whom Rothko thought he had to compete. And though he claimed to be in possession of the most ineffable secrets, he did not pontificate about art, and never sought to draw other artists into his orbit. In its morbid recesses, his pride was more disturbing than that, for it was vulnerable to itself. The

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