Books: A catalogue raisonné for Mark Rothko

Only Gorky and Pollock of his peers has so far been catalogued


A catalogue raisonné of the art of Mark Rothko will be published by the National Gallery of Art, Washington. Its author is Dr David Anfam, the British scholar who was coordinating editor of American Art in the Twentieth Century, the catalogue which accompanied the exhibition staged at the Royal Academy of Arts in 1993. He has also written the catalogue for the forthcoming survey of Franz Kline’s art taking place at the Menil Collection, Houston and the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York.

Dr Anfam’s plan anticipates three or possibly four volumes, with a first volume dedicated to the artist’s canvases and tentatively scheduled for publication towards the end of 1995. At present, the author has identified 824 paintings for inclusion in this volume, but his list includes lost or destroyed works. All these paintings will be illustrated by colour plates. The remaining volumes cover Rothko’s substantial corpus of works on paper which will be subdivided by medium into oils, acrylics, watercolours, drawings and sketches. The National Gallery of Art has been the largest single beneficiary of the Mark Rothko Foundation which donated 295 paintings and works on paper and a further 650 sketches to it, a collection matched only by that of the artist’s two children, Kate Rothko Prizel and Christopher Rothko, who jointly inherited four-ninths of their father’s estate under the terms of the settlement finally agreed in 1977.

Of the leading American abstract masters of Rothko’s generation, only Arshile Gorky and Jackson Pollock have been the subjects of complete catalogues. Speaking to The Art Newspaper, Dr Anfam explained that although Abstract Expressionism had taken its place in the history of art, such large projects tended to lag behind, but he believed that the publication of catalogues for Rothko and other contemporaries would lead to a new interpretation of their art and the place which they should occupy in the movement.

Originally appeared in The Art Newspaper as 'A catalogue raisonné'