Rothko from A to Z , important article at Sotheby's website.
An exhibition at Vienna's Kunsthistorisches Museum reveals Mark Rothko’s deep connection to the Old Masters.
In the summer of 1959, Mark Rothko had a revelation. He was on the second of three long journeys he would take across Europe over 17 years, and he was enjoying a day trip to the ancient Greco-Roman site of Paestum. As he picnicked inside the ruins of the Temple of Hera II, two young Italian guides of his learned of his profession and asked if he was there to paint the temples. “I have been painting Greek temples all my life without knowing it,” the artist replied.
These words may surprise the many who think of Rothko’s large, shimmering blocks of colour that dominated his later career. But as the Mark Rothko exhibition at the Kunsthistorische Museum in Vienna shows, not only did the artist spend his early years making figurative work, but he drew extensively from the past throughout his career. “The history of art is feeding into his creative imagination right to the end,” says the exhibition’s curator Jasper Sharp, “even in the works that appear to be resolutely modern.”