1903-1923 Born in Dvinsk (former Russian Empire, today Daugavpils in Latvia), Markus Rothkowitz emigrates to the United States in 1913. His family lives in Portland. His father, Jacob Rothkowitz, dies in 1914. Is awarded a study grant for Yale in 1921. In 1923 he sets up a satirical journal, The Yale Saturday Evening Post. Leaves university in 1923 without taking his degree. With no formal art training, he moves to New York.
1924-1932 Takes still life classes with Max Weber at the Arts Students League, becoming a member in 1926 and remaining so until 1930. In 1929 he becomes acquainted with Adolph Gottlieb and Milton Avery. Meets Edith Sachar at Lake George (northeast New York State). They wed in 1932.
1934-1936 Together with other artists, founds the group The Ten, acting as its secretary. Group shows by The Ten in 1935 and 1936 at the Montross Gallery, New York.
1938 Rothko acquires American citizenship. Exhibition ‘The Ten: Whitney Dissenters’. The positions adopted by the yearly show at the Whitney are denounced in a text in the catalogue.
1940 Adopts the name Mark Rothko. Works on mythological themes. Reads Nietzsche.
1943 Mark Rothko and Edith Sachar separate (divorce is pronounced in 1944). Rothko suffers from depression and is hospitalised. Meets Clyfford Still, who will exert a great influence on his work. Meets Howard Putzel, advisor to Peggy Guggenheim.
1944 Participates in the ‘First Exhibition in America of Twenty Paintings’ at the Art of this Century Gallery. Befriends an illustrator, Mary Alice Beistle, known as Mell, whom he marries the following year.
1945 15 pictures by Rothko feature in a solo exhibition at the Art of this Century Gallery.
1948 Second one-man show at the Betty Parsons Gallery, ‘Mark Rothko: Recent Paintings’. Following the example of Clyfford Still, for the first time his pictures are numbered instead of bearing a title. Death of his mother. Depressed, the artist stops painting for a year.
1949 Solo exhibition at the Betty Parsons Gallery, at which he shows a series of works numbered from 1 to 10. Takes part in the annual exhibition at the Whitney.
1950 A further solo show at the Betty Parsons Gallery. Travels for five months in Europe with Mell, showing an interest in old masters and the cathedrals. Participates for the last time in the annual exhibition at the Whitney.
1951 18 artists, including Rothko, pose for the famous photo of the ‘Irascibles’, published in Life: they refuse to take part in the exhibition of contemporary art at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Rothko is appointed to teach graphic art at Brooklyn College, where Ad Reinhardt is also on the staff; they will be
joined by Clyfford Still the following year. His exhibition at the Betty Parsons Gallery is poorly received.
1952-1954 Refuses to hang at the Whitney Annual in 1952 He leaves the Betty Parsons gallery in 1954 and joins Sidney Janis, already agent for Newman, Pollock, Still and De Kooning. Loses his post at Brooklyn College.
1955-1956 Debut solo exhibition at the Sidney Janis Gallery. Barnett Newman and Clyfford Still express their disagreement with Rothko’s work.
1957 First dark paintings. Works on a project fora wall decoration for the Four Seasons restaurant in the Seagram Building by architect Philip Johnson. Selected together with David Smith, Seymour Lipton and Mark Tobey to represent the United States at the 29th Venice Biennial.
1959 Refuses to take part in the second Documenta at Kassel. In the course of a trip spanning Europe, the
Rothkos visit Pompeii, Paestum, Rome, Tarquinia, Venice, Florence and St Ives in Cornwall, where the artist plans to purchase a chapel and convert it into a private museum. Decides to abandon the commission for the Four Seasons (he finds the venue pretentious) and to pay back the advance received for the project. His works are shown in the exhibition ‘The New American Painting’, organised by MoMA, and presented in New York, before touring Europe.
1960 The Phillips Collection, Washington, buys two of his paintings. It becomes the first institution to have a ‘Rothko room’. Meets Jean and Dominique de Menil.
1961 Exhibits 48 works at MoMA, a retrospective subsequently presented in London, Amsterdam, Brussels, Basel, Rome and Paris in 1963. Commission for a wall decoration in Harvard.
1962-1963 In 1962, Rothko, Gottlieb, Guston and Motherwell break their contract with Sidney Janis as a protest against his exhibition ‘The New Realism’ showcasing Pop artists. The five monumental canvases for the Harvard dining room are unveiled at the Guggenheim Museum, New York. Signs an exclusive contract with the Marlborough Fine Arts Gallery, which purchases 15 pictures.
1964 First solo show by Rothko at the Marlborough Gallery, London. Dominique de Menil orders a group of paintings for the chapel to be built at the University of St. Thomas, Houston. Participates at the exhibition ‘Painting and Sculpture of a Decade, 1954-1964’ at the Tate Gallery.
1965 Devotes his time to the project for the Houston chapel. Takes part in the exhibition ‘The New York School: The First Generation’ at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art. Contacts with Sir Norman Reid, then director of the Tate Gallery, with a view to arranging a Rothko room in the museum.
1966-1967 The Rothkos travel through Europe (Lisbon, Majorca, Rome, Spoleto, France, The Netherlands, Belgium and London…). Works by the painter in an exhibition at the Cleveland Museum of Art and in ‘Two Decades of American Paintings’, a travelling exhibit organisedby MoMA that takes in Tokyo, Kyoto, New Dehli, Melbourne, and Sydney. In 1967, the exhibition ‘Six Painters’ at the art department at the University of St Thomas, Houston, presents works by Mondrian, Guston, Kline, De Kooning, Pollock and Rothko. Finishes 14 pictures as well as four ‘spare’ canvases for the chapel in Houston. All 18 are placed in storage until work on the chapel is completed.
1968 After suffering an aneurysm Rothko is hospitalised for several weeks. His physicians advise him to stop working on large formats. Paints a number of works in acrylic on paper. Begins an inventory of his oeuvre.
1969 Rothko and his wife Mell separate. Founding of the Mark Rothko Foundation. Appointed Doctor honoris causa from Yale University. Several of his works from different periods appear in the exhibition ‘New York Painting and Sculpture 1940-1970’. He offers nine pictures from the Seagram Building commission to the Tate Gallery.
1970 Mark Rothko commits suicide on 25 February, the very day the Seagram Murals arrive in London.
1971 The Rothko Chapel is consecrated on 21 February.