Studying Rothko

Hi Friends,

There’s a wonderful documentary about abstract expressionist painter Mark Rothko currently streaming on the PBS website. It’s called “Rothko: Pictures Must be Miraculous,” and it gives insights into Rothko’s life and his art.

There are many great quotes in the film, both from Rothko himself and others discussing Rothko’s work. Rothko’s daughter, Kate, recalled that her father often said, “A painting lives in the eyes of a sensitive viewer.” That was who he painted for — people who were sensitive and able to comprehend his work.

I like the concept that our art is not for everyone — only for those who resonate in a way that allows them to understand it. As an artist, it’s freeing to let go of the need for everyone to like my art.

Although Rothko’s large-scale color field paintings seem simple, they’re not. They’re many layers of color and texture that can only be appreciated by looking at them for an extended period of time until the eye becomes attuned to the subtleties of the piece.

Here’s an example of his work. This is Number 14 from 1960.

Mark Rothko art

Mark Rothko art

Rothko’s paintings are said to calm the angst and anxiety of our time. I think of my minimalist paintings in the same way, and it never occurred to me that I might be influenced by Rothko.

I had given up on my minimalist paintings, but now I feel a renewed interest in revisiting that body of work. It’s funny how a chance viewing of a documentary can alter the course of my art.

Here’s one of my minimalist pieces from last May. Do you see connections to Rothko’s work? Click on the image to see it larger in a browser.

Cassandra Tondro art

Seven,” 30 x 24 inches, repurposed acrylic latex paint on canvas

Where have you found renewed interest? I’d enjoy hearing your thoughts. You can share them with us in the comments section below.

With love and appreciation,



  1. Hey Cassie. Love how we are influenced by our surroundings or chance meetings. Really like “Seven”. I’ve been working on landscapes (variations), it’s how I originally started-plain aire. Getting my feet back on the earth (pandemic life)
    I’m going to seek out a Rothko .. not sure I’ve seen one in person. Thanks.

    1. Hi Debbi! I’d love to see the Rothko Chapel in Houston. I haven’t seen many Rothko’s in person. LACMA has a couple and MOCA has quite a few. I don’t know what’s on display at any given time, though. The Broad Museum also has some of his work. I think they are way different in person than what you get from a small image on the screen. Looking forward to hearing about your experience with them!

Leave a Reply