The book's introduction by Dore Ashton was almost worth the price of the book itself. It is educational at worst, insightful throughout, and illuminating at the very best. Rothko's influences are woven throughout this essay on the relative roles of media in his ouevre. I'll just quote one passage that I found to be very interesting about Rothko's goal of portraying tragedy in his work.
When Rothko spoke about the "tragic"... it was the tragedy of man's destiny - to be forever caught between birth and death - and aware of the strange disparity between the great space of the imagination and the material human fate.Reluctant to bore you with the details of my Rothko fandom, suffice it to say that works on paper permeated Rothko's entire career, from his early formative days painting with Milton Avery, to his Surrealist period up to the point where he realized figuration would not yield the results he desired, to studies for his major installations (Seagram, Harvard, and Menil), to his very last days when health issues limited his ability to work on larger canvases.
|Left: Untitled, 1969. Watercolor, tempera on paper. Right: Untitled, early 1950s, Watercolor, tempera on paper.|
And when Rothko's canvas palette changed to darker tones, his way of distancing himself from being labelled a colorist, his works on paper continued the use of bright colors. In fact, the somber canvas works of the late 1960s were accompanied by paper works of brilliant lightness.