Mark Rothko was born September 25, 1903 in Latvia, a country ruled by the Czarist Russian Empire. Although there were no anti-Semitic pogroms within his town, Rothko’s parents decided to emigrate to United States, following the plight of many Jews wishing to evade what seemed to be inevitable violence wrought by revolutionary uprisings. The Rothko’s settled in Portland, Oregon and in 1921 won a scholarship to Yale based on academic merit. Rothko found his fellow students to be stuffy, with a bourgeois attitude. The elitist community caused Rothko to drop out, move to New York, and find employment in the garment district.
According to Rothko, the beginning of his artistic career began when he witnessed his friend sketching from a model at the Art Students League. He later enrolled in the New School of Design. With Ashrile Gorky as a professor, Rothko first encountered the avante- garde. It was under the instruction of Max Weber, however, at the Art Students Leaugue that Rothko learned to use art as a vehicle of expression for his personal experiences, religious beliefs, and emotions. Further influenced by the German Expressionists, the surrealist work of Paul Klee, and the paintings of George Rouault, Rothko began to develop the elements that characterized his style; rigorous attention to formal elements such as color, balance, depth, composition, and scale.