The Artist's Reality: Philosophies of Art (Paperback)
On Our Shelves Now.
Mark Rothko’s classic book on artistic practice, ideals, and philosophy, now with an expanded introduction and an afterword by Makoto Fujimura
Stored in a New York City warehouse for many years after the artist’s death, this extraordinary manuscript by Mark Rothko (1903–1970) was published to great acclaim in 2004. Probably written in 1940 or 1941, it contains 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.
In his introduction, illustrated with examples of Rothko’s work and pages from the manuscript, the artist’s son, Christopher Rothko, describes the discovery of the manuscript and the fascinating process of its initial publication. This edition includes discussion of Rothko’s “Scribble Book” (1932), his notes on teaching art to children, which has received renewed scholarly attention in recent years and provides clues to the genesis of Rothko’s thinking on pedagogy.
In an afterword written for this edition, artist and author Makoto Fujimura reflects on how Rothko’s writings offer a “lifeboat” for “art world refugees” and a model for upholding artistic ideals. He considers the transcendent capacity of Rothko’s paintings to express pure ideas and the significance of the decade-long gap between The Artist’s Reality and Rothko’s mature paintings, during which the horrors of the Holocaust and the atomic bomb were unleashed upon the world.
About the Author
Mark Rothko (1903–1970) was born in Russia and came to the United States with his family in 1913. A major figure in New York’s Abstract Expressionist movement, he has been the subject of retrospectives at museums worldwide. Christopher Rothko, a writer and psychologist, is actively involved in managing the Rothko legacy by organizing and presenting exhibitions of his father’s work around the globe. Makoto Fujimura is an artist, an award-winning author, and the recipient of the 2023 Kuyper Prize. His books include Art and Faith: A Theology of Making.
Praise for Previous Editions of The Artist’s Reality:
“I do not think it is an exaggeration to say that this publication—lovingly and discreetly edited by the artist’s son, Christopher Rothko—is a major event, for to open The Artist’s Reality is to discover buried treasure. This is a fully worked-out theory of art, written by an essential American painter at the very dawn of his artistic maturity.”—Jed Perl, New Republic
“It is unusual to find an artist with such eloquence in words, and this voice from the past, especially from the pioneer of so influential an artistic movement is a rare find.”—Jackie Wullschlager, Financial Times
“The book broaches a poetics of space that would finally place Rothko’s art among the more uncommon visual achievements of the 20th century.”—David Anfam, Art Newspaper
“A deceptively slender volume. . . . Reflects the author’s intense intellectual curiosity and ambition.”—Phoebe Hoban, New York Times
“The book is an enormously important art history document because, oddly, it is unsurprising. It confirms what the best critics have always seen in Rothko’s work: the desire to go beyond the historical moment, beyond the accidental detail, beyond nation or culture, even the self, to arrive at a transcendent and universal experience, to arrive at, as he puts it, the myth.”—Bryan Appleyard, Sunday Times Magazine (UK)
“A wonderful gift on many levels, providing a unique insight into the worldview of one of the pivotal figures of 20th-century art. . . . Essential.”—Choice
“The rediscovered book manuscript . . . adds an important document to the literature of modern American art.”—Kenneth Baker, San Francisco Chronicle
“The Artist’s Reality . . . is a collection of 12 beautifully written and clearheaded essays from 1940–41. Addressing art in terms of tradition, myth, history, philosophy, form, politics, biology, and emotion, Rothko asserts the individuality and necessity of the artist, as he also reaffirms that the Abstract Expressionists were continuing an ancient tradition. This is one of the most important documents written by an Abstract Expressionist—or by an American painter.”—New York Sun
“A document of extraordinary critical interest. Casting vivid light on its author’s intellectual outlook and motivations at a turning point in his career, it offers a framework for understanding the canonical works that he would begin to create nearly a decade later. . . . In addition to affording invaluable insight into the mind of its author, this volume is the most considerable single verbal text, in length and sustained argument, to have emerged from what we now call the New York School. . . . The text now made available as The Artist’s Reality will henceforward be indispensable to understanding the achievement of Mark Rothko from the viewpoint of its creator.”—Sheldon Nodelman, Art in America