If you would have asked me as recently as last August who my all time least favorite painters were, I would have instantly listed van Gogh, Rothko and Mondrian. I find van Gogh unpleasant. Of the last two, I tolerated Mondrian because at least his lines are straight. As to Rothko, I thought he was a overblown graphic artist.

Simon Schama's BBC series Power of Art changed all that. The series focused more on the artists rather than the works, an approach I like especially regarding writers. I understood just a little better why van Gogh is so morbid. I am now interested in his life, and his paintings as a reference to his person, but still find the paintings opposite of exhilarating, very unpleasant.

More importantly for me, I took a real look at Rothko for the first time, and the way the doco showed details of the paintings helped me understand just how enormously abbreviated even the large format arts books are, let alone postcards or postage-stamp-sized snippets.

Though I suspect he was a terribly difficult many, and could not stand to stay in the same room for a minute because of his smoking, I share his dislike of noise and consumerism. In fact, I was thinking about just that before I was given links to this episode in YouTube. (You see, this was the only episode of the series I didn't tape.)

Now I can't get enough of the nuances and the wobbly boarders. His paintings help me escape the noise of modern life easily, which is an accomplishment in itself. I don't find any dread or morbidness he is said to have have expressed; instead, his paintings pull me out of my body and lets me soar or freefall as I like inside the colors.

I don't mind being proven wrong, but I do lament the time I wasted disliking him. (I could have gone to Tate Modern in 2003 but I couldn't stand the idea of being in the same building as a Rothko!)

And or course my taste has certainly been changing, living in a different place, getting older, and being involved in textiles. I mean, what weaver would fail to see any Rothko color patch as a scrumptious wool blanket?

I am, this year, totally in love with his colors and nuances I just can't get images of his paintings out of my head, and he's threatening to replace my favorite painter of the last decade, Macke.


Here's BBC's blub on the series. Here's the episode in six parts on YouTube: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5 and Part 6.


  1. Passion is tricky business.

    I think there are Macke's in the Tate and perhaps if you had gone in 2003 you might have stumbled into a Rothko. Ahhh passion!

    I see a connection from Macke to Rothko, just jump the scale of a tiny square inch of Macke's Farewell and I can see a Rothko. But then again my eyes are funny that way.

    I'll be looking for your Rothko scarves soon!

    ohh I will post the mondrian dress/painting on my blog for you. So done that been there, but this renditions is more dirty london alley punkish inspiration.

  2. I was flabbergasted by the list of supposedly Expressionist painters; it's such a wide net it probably includes so many of a certain vintage who didn't belong to any other school/movement. But I take your point, I shall get my wee Macke book out!


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