Mark Rothko
Mark Rothko, Untitled, 1968, private collection © 2023 Kate Rothko Prizel & Christopher Rothko


Actor portraying Mark Rothko:

"I became a painter because I wanted to raise painting to the level of poignancy of music and poetry.”



Mark Rothko was very interested in literature, drama, poetry, and philosophy, but above all he was interested in music - classical music. Øystein Ustvedt, art historian at the National Museum explains:


Øystein Ustvedt:

And most of all he listened to works by Mozart. Can this interest in classical music contribute to a better understanding of the expression in Rothko's paintings, in other words: to get a better grasp of how the paintings affect us?


Rothko preferred classical composers such as Hayden, Mozart and Schubert. His paintings can in a way also be referred to as "classical", in that they emphasize composition, formal clarity, calm and balance to such a large extent.



Mozart was the first choice, but why exactly Mozart?


Øystein Ustvedt:

Perhaps it was about the harmony, simplicity, and emotional complexity of Mozart's works? Rothko himself emphasized the composer's ability to "smile through tears" in his compositions. And who knows, maybe Rothko recognized some of this in his own works?