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A sweeping survey of the American Abstract Expressionist Mark Rothko (1903-70) at the Fondation Louis Vuitton in Paris has garnered rave reviews and is one of the blockbuster shows of the year. The exhibition covers the breadth of the artist’s career and includes important loans, such as one of his earliest signature abstract paintings No. 5/No. 22 (1950), from the Museum of Modern Art in New York, and the complete suite of Seagram Murals, which are usually housed at Tate Modern in London.

The show’s catalogue includes essays by the artist’s son Christopher Rothko and the museum’s artistic director Suzanne Pagé, who have both co-curated the show with François Michaud. Below, Michaud has selected five books for those wanting to know more about Rothko’s life and career.

Writings on Art (2006) and The Artist’s Reality: Philosophies of Art (2004) by Mark Rothko

“[Writings on Art] includes Rothko’s texts published during his lifetime as well as handwritten notes and some of his artistic correspondences. [The Artist’s Reality], published by his son Christopher Rothko in 2004, brings together handwritten texts from around 1940 and a draft of a treatise on painting which Rothko had intended to call The Artist’s Reality. Starting with ancient art and reflections on children’s art and art education, Rothko sketched out the fundamental directions of his future art, at a time when he was beginning to move away from figuration.”

Mark Rothko: From the Inside Out (2015) by Christopher Rothko

“This book brings together the various essays Christopher Rothko has written on his father’s art and his other interests, particularly music. Many aspects of Rothko’s work and of the man himself are explored, creating a retrospective portrait that draws on Christopher’s childhood memories.”

Rothko: The Late Series (2008) by Achim Borchardt-Hume

“The catalogue of the exhibition curated by Achim Borchardt-Hume [is] the most complete study about the Seagram Murals and Rothko’s dark paintings.”

Mark Rothko: A Biography (1993) by James E. B. Breslin

“The main comprehensive study about Rothko’s life and artistic evolution, which James Breslin wrote after interviewing all the people linked to Rothko whom he was able to meet in the 80s.”

Mark Rothko, Fondation Louis Vuitton, Paris, until 2 April 2024

Rothko: Every Picture Tells a Story, Suzanne Pagé, Christopher Rothko, et al, Fondation Louis Vuitton/Citadelles & Mazenod, 303pp, €45 (hb)

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