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Abstract Expressionism
by Gary Comenas

abstract expressionism

| 1800-1899 | 1900-1909 | 1910-1919 | 1920-1924 | 1925-1927 | 1928-1929 | 1930 | 1931 | 1932 | 1933 | 1934 | 1935 | 1936 | 1937 | 1938 | 1939 |
| 1940 | 1941 | 1942 | 1943 | 1944 | 1945 (a) | 1945 (b) | 1946 | 1947 | 1948 (a) | 1948 (b) | 1949 | 1950 | 1951 | 1952 | 1953 | 1954 | 1955 |
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1968

Robert Motherwell makes silkscreens for the Spoleto Festival. Barnett Newman completes Anna's Light. Barnett Newman writes the foreword for a new edition of Prince Kropotkin's memoirs. Barnett Newman travels to Europe. Willem de Kooning visits Europe. Adolph Gottlieb retrospective runs concurrently at the Guggenheim Museum and the Whitney. "Dada, Surrealism and Their Heritage" at The Museum of Modern Art - includes Barnett Newman, Jackson Pollock, Robert Rauschenberg, Jasper Johns. Martin Luther King is assassinated. Barnett Newman is asked to do Martin Luther King prints. Barnett Newman is awarded an honorary professorship in drawing from the University of Bridgeport, Connecticut. Mark Rothko is admitted into hospital with an aneurysm. Mark Rothko is inducted into the National Institute of Arts and Letters. Mark Rothko's contract expires with the Marlborough Gallery. Barnett Newman moves his studio to 35 White Street. The Rothkos go to Provincetown for the summer. Mark Rothko writes to the Tate Gallery about his bequest of the Seagram murals. Michael Wright resigns. The 1968 National Convention of the U.S. Democratic Party is held in Chicago, Illinois. Mark Rothko hires Jonathan Ahearn as an assistant. Pace Gallery negotiates with Mark Rothko. Mark Rothko visits Dr. Grokest. Mark Rothko writes a new Will. Willem De Kooning retrospective in Holland opens at the Stedelijk. Willem de Kooning visits his mother. Marcel Duchamp dies in Neuilly-sur-Seine, France. Willem de Kooning's mother dies. The director of the Tate Gallery writes to Mark Rothko about the Seagram murals. Artists protest Mayor Daley's actions at Richard Feigen Gallery, Chicago. Mark Rothko begins an inventory of his works. Willem de Kooning and Joan Ward survive a car crash. Willem de Kooning retrospective opens at the Tate Gallery in London. Mark Rothko sees a psychiatrist. Robert Motherwell begins incorporating images of Gauloises cigarette packets into his paintings. Mark Rothko proposes giving the Phillips Collection "first choice of a group" of paintings.

1968: Robert Motherwell makes silkscreens for the Spoleto Festival. (HM)

1968: Barnett Newman completes Anna's Light.

The painting was named after his deceased mother. It was his largest painting and the first to be unstretched, attached directly to the wall. (MH)

1968: Barnett Newman writes the foreword for a new edition of Prince Kropotkin's memoirs.

Barnett Newman [from the foreword]:

"In the twenties and thirties, the din against libertarian ideas that came from shouting dogmatists, Marxist, Leninist, Stalinist, and Trotskyite alike, was so shrill it built an intellectual prison that locked one in tight... The reissue now of this classic anarchist literary masterpiece at this moment of revolutionary ferment, when the New Left has already begun to build a new prison with its Marcusian, Maoist, and Guevara walls, is an event of importance for the thinking young and their elders. (MH)

January 1968: Barnett Newman travels to Europe.

Newman and his wife first went to Paris where Barnett delivered a lecture "For Impassioned Criticism" (later published in Art News) at a conference on Charles Baudelaire. While in Paris, Newman visited the Louvre for the first time before traveling on to Basel, Barcelona, Madrid, El Escorial and Toledo. After Spain they went to London.

Barnett Newman [from "For Impassioned Criticism"]:

"What I wish to do is to please for passionate criticism for the sake of the passionate itself. Just as passion reveals the artist, so does it real the critic. And it is in this way that the critic can approach closer to the painter." (MH)

c. January 1968: Willem de Kooning visits Europe.

Thomas Hess and Xavier Fourcade had invited Bill to accompany them to Paris. His show of his Long Island paintings was due to open at the original M. Knoedler et Cie gallery there in June. While there de Kooning visited Fountainebleau, the Louvre, and an old friend, the artist Joan Mitchell who had moved to France with the French-Canadian artist Jean-Paul Riopelle. From Paris, de Kooning and Fourcade traveled to London where they had dinner with Francis Bacon, the art critic David Sylvester and a few of Bacon's friends. Sylvester recalled about the dinner "It was like a dinner in Berlin between American and Russian generals. Lots of toasts and bearhugs but not much communication." (DK506)

February 14 - March 31, 1968: Adolph Gottlieb retrospective runs concurrently at the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum and the Whitney Museum of American Art.

After finishing at those museums the retrospective traveled to The Corcoran Gallery of Art, Washington, DC (April 26 - June 2, 1968), then the Rose Art Museum, Brandeis University, Waltham, Massachusetts (September 9 - October 20, 1968). (AG173)

March 27–June 9, 1968: "Dada, Surrealism and Their Heritage" at The Museum of Modern Art.

Included work by Barnett Newman, Victor Brauner, Giorgio de Chirico, Jackson Pollock, Alberto Giacometti, Max Ernst, Robert Arneson, Norman Bluhm, Horace Clifford Westermann, Joan Miró, Robert Rauschenberg, Herbert Ferber, Alfonso Ossorio, David Hare, Joseph Cornell, Frida Kahlo, Jasper Johns, and others.

After showing at MoMA, the exhibition traveled to the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (July 16 - September 8, 1968) and then to the Chicago Art Institute (October 19 - December 8, 1968).

Newman removed Gea from the exhibition when it traveled to Chicago in December in protest of Mayor Richard Daley's heavy-handed actions against peace demonstrators at the 1968 National Convention of the U.S. Democratic Party held in Chicago from August 26 to August 29, 1968. He also made a sculpture, Lace Curtain, for an anti-Daley exhibition organized by the Richard Feigen Gallery in Chicago. He planned to make a second protest sculpture to be called Mayor Daley's Outhouse, but didn't have time to complete it.
(MH/http://www.artic.edu/aic/collections/modern/citi/object?id=118766&collcatid=11
#zciti_exhis
)

Gea can be seen at:
http://www.artic.edu/aic/collections/citi/object?id=75996&artist=
barnett%20newman&keyword=#
.

April 4, 1968: Martin Luther King is assassinated.

From "BBC On This Day April 4, 1968:"

"Martin Luther King's assassination led to riots in more than 100 US cities. James Earl Ray was convicted of his murder and sentenced to 99 years in prison. But he later retracted his confession and said he had been only a minor player in a conspiracy. However, his appeals for a new trial were rejected and he died in prison in 1998. Ray was supported by some members of Martin Luther King's family who believed the US Government may have been involved in Dr King's death. Their case was strengthened in December 1999 when a jury in a wrongful death case brought by the King family, decided the civil rights leader was the victim of a murder conspiracy. However, in June 2000 after an investigation the US Justice Department said it had uncovered no reliable evidence of a conspiracy."
(http://news.bbc.co.uk/onthisday/hi/dates/stories/april/4/newsid_2453000/2453987.stm)

A copy of the Justice Department's report can be found at:
http://www.usdoj.gov/crt/crim/mlk/part1.htm.

April 1968: Barnett Newman is asked to do Martin Luther King prints.

Collector Vera List asked Newman to do the prints. Although he never did a King portfolio, he began a series of etchings, completing eighteen small prints for a series titled Notes and two large untitled etchings. (MH)

April 28, 1968: Barnett Newman is awarded an honorary professorship in drawing from the University of Bridgeport, Connecticut. (MH)

Late April 1968: Mark Rothko is admitted into hospital with an aneurysm.

On the evening of April 19 or 20, 1968 the Rothkos were walking home from dinner at a restaurant and Rothko felt an intense pain in his lower back and numbness in his legs. They caught a cab and Mell rang Dr. Grokest who, because of Rothko's previous medical symptoms and history of high blood pressure, suspected an aneurysm. Grokest arrived at Rothko's home on 95th Street and insisted that he go to Columbia Presbyterian, a hospital that Grokest was associated with. But Rothko didn't want to go to that hospital ("I hate Columbia Presbyterian") so Grokest got on the phone to see if he could get Rothko admitted to New York Hospital. Rothko had, however, already rung Bernard Reis in the cab on the way home who had called a cardiologist he knew at New York Hospital - Dr. Irving Wright - who arranged for Rothko to be admitted there. Reis went to the hospital in the ambulance with Rothko and his wife and Grokest later recalled that "I sat there like a dummy wondering what the hell is going on here? Who is in charge and who would be responsible for him? What kind of a controlling character is this that can supersede me in a medical situation which is acute and dangerous?" Rothko remained in hospital for approximately two weeks being treated by Dr. Allen Meade - a younger associate of Dr. Wright who would continue to treat him for the last two years of his life. It was decided that hypertension had caused the aneurysm (according to Grokest there were three aneurysms) and Rothko was given a tranquillizer, Reserpine, and a a diuretic in order to help lower his blood pressure. Later, a mood elevator, Elavil, would also be prescribed. (RO490/IS69/LM71) By the time of his suicide in 1970 he was on the antidepressant Sinequan (Doxepin) and was also taking Valium. (LM75)

After returning home, Rothko could not paint for several weeks while he recuperated and when he did start working again, Dr. Meade told him not to work on anything larger than forty inches high. He also became sexually impotent after the aneurysm which lasted until his death. (RO656n7) According to Dore Ashton, the aneurysm "scared the hell out of him and he was upset about having to live as a less-than-perfect physical specimen." Rothko's daughter Kate later recalled that he lived "in daily fear of what was going to happen." (RO490) Dr. Meade recalled that Dr. Wright had told Rothko that 95% of people with his condition were dead in five years. (RO491)

From The Legacy of Mark Rothko by Lee Seldes:

"The repeated admonitions of doctors against alcohol had worried Rothko to abstain for a while. But before long he resumed drinking and chain-smoking. He began to find devious ways around the restriction. He would start at 5 a.m. with a slug of vodka straight from the bottle, reasoning that it was a glass or mixing that made a drink. He stowed a bottle at [Arthur] Lidov's [whose studio was in the same building] and made a habit of visiting him in the late afternoons to chat - and get a little help from the bottle. He had been putting away about a fifth a day since the fifties, according to his friend and former assistant Dan Rice, and had become addicted to both nicotine and alcohol. The former was obvious to others, but perhaps partially because of Rothko's huge frame, until the last twenty months of his life only a handful of people were aware of his dependence on drink." (LM75)

May 28, 1968: Mark Rothko is inducted into the National Institute of Arts and Letters.

Rothko did not attend the ceremony. (RO538/676n68)

June 1968: Mark Rothko's contract expires with the Marlborough Gallery. (RO508)

From The Legacy of Mark Rothko by Lee Seldes:

"Rothko had taken no steps to renew his Marlborough contract, but [Jonathan] Ahearn [an assistant hired in the autumn] remembers that occasionally a smooth young man in a Cardin suit would drop by, for whom Rothko made no attempt to disguise his dislike. This was Donald McKinney of Marlborough. Despite Rothko's official dissociation from them, Marlborough still listed him as one of their artists in all their many catalogues and would continue to do so throughout the eight months he was unrepresented." (LM73)

June 1968: Barnett Newman moves his studio to 35 White Street.

Newman also kept his studio space in the Carnegie Hall building. (MH)

Early July 1968: The Rothkos go to Provincetown for the summer. (RO493)

The Rothkos rented a cottage at 621 Commercial Street and a double garage a few blocks away which served as a make-shift studio.

Stanley Kunitz:

"He wasn't working very well that summer. He was in very bad shape. He was drinking a great deal. He was terribly sloppy personally in his habits, and got fat and confused. And then he had these terrible quarrels with Mell that were ugly in every way. I just had the feeling that he was going completely to seed." (RO493)

Robert Motherwell was staying a few doors down from the Rothkos and wrote to Herbert and Edith Ferber on July 24th that "it is anguishing to see his [Rothko's] difficulty in simply getting through the day, though I am sure he would vehemently deny this... The difficulty is that Mark's defense mechanism is so massive and takes the form of rejecting anyone else's judgment, that no one can intervene on the one hand, and on the other as a result he is almost metaphysically lonely, hence the bottle." (RO491)

Some accounts have Rothko turning to acrylics on paper during this period as he was unable to to work on large paintings anymore because of his aneurysm. However, he had actually started using acrylics on paper in 1967, prior to his aneurysm. (RO495)

July 15, 1968: Mark Rothko writes to the Tate Gallery about his bequest of the Seagram murals.

Rothko wrote to the director of the Tate, Norman Reid, "I have been seriously ill and so have had to neglect many things close to my desires. However, I have improved at a rapid rate. I still hold the room at the Tate as part of my dreams..." He asked Reid whether he would be in New York in the autumn "when we can really set up the nature of the room and provide for the prodigious physical effort, to put it into effect." Reid wrote back to say he would be in New York in March 1969 and Rothko wrote back on September 12, 1968 that "At that time I would like to select finally the pictures for the Tate, give them to you, get them out of my life & warehouses and make the entire agreement final. We could arrange to send them to you at once." (RO516/RO668n13,14)

c. Late Summer 1968: Michael Wright resigns. (DK508)

Michael Wright quit his job as Willem de Kooning's assistant without informing the artist that he was leaving. When he left he told Joan Ward, but not de Kooning. He was fed up with the amount of time the job required and having to deal with visitors who would often try to take advantage of the artist when he was drunk - stealing drawings off the floor or coaxing de Kooning to give them one after he'd had too many drinks. He later recalled, "It got so confused that I didn't know how many hours I'd worked - what to charge him. It was a 24 hour thing. I used to have to help him take a shower, clean him up, dress him. All that made me feel that I didn't want to be part of him, although I liked him." After leaving de Kooning, Wright did not see him for "three months." He "didn't want anything to do with him." When he finally did see Bill again, de Kooning was sympathetic, saying "You know, I kind of understand why you wanted to quit. You're a good painter; you've got to have your own life." (DK508)

August 26 to August 29, 1968: The 1968 National Convention of the U.S. Democratic Party is held at International Amphitheatre in Chicago, Illinois.

Mayor Daley ordered a crackdown on demonstrators which resulted in violent scenes of police brutality broadcast to the nation on television. Eight of the protestors - Abbie Hoffman, Tom Hayden, David Dellinger, Rennie Davis, John Froines, Jerry Rubin, Lee Weiner and Bobby Seale were arrested and brought to trial. Known first as the Chicago Eight and then as the Chicago Seven (after Seale was tried separately), they were eventually acquitted by the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals.
(http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/1968_Democratic_National_Convention)

Autumn 1968: Mark Rothko hires Jonathan Ahearn as an assistant. (RO469)

Autumn 1968: Pace Gallery negotiates with Mark Rothko. (RO509)

Rothko's contract with the Marlborough Gallery expired in June 1968. According to Arnold Glimcher, the director of the Pace gallery, Rothko told him that he needed "to raise $500,000 in cash." Glimcher and the Swiss dealer, Ernest Beyeler, met with Rothko (spending a "terrific afternoon" with him) and an agreement was worked out. Beyeler would represent Rothko in Europe and Rothko would receive $500,000 for approximately eighteen paintings. Rothko told Glimcher that he didn't want any exhibitions in New York because he felt "very alienated." Glimcher suggested picking out the paintings at that time but Rothko told them to come back tomorrow as he need to confer with Bernard Reis. Glimcher later recalled that when he and Beyeler returned the next day, "Mark answered the door and said he couldn't sell us the pictures. It was out of his control. He was very sorry. And he began to cry." On February 25, 1969 Glimcher wrote to Rothko and asked him to reconsider the offer, but by that time Rothko had already signed his second contract with Marlborough. (RO509/666n90)

Autumn 1968: Mark Rothko visits Dr. Grokest.

According to Grokest, Rothko told him that "he and Mell were so alienated that his marriage was getting worse and that he was impotent. He was considering separating from Mell." Grokest detected an enlargement of his liver and warned Rothko of cirrhosis. (RO491)

Although Grokest remembers Rothko as a stubborn patient, Dr. Meade, who had treated Rothko's aneurysm and continued to see him, thought Rothko was "a very docile patient, as so many depressed individuals are. He seemed to focus a great deal into little details of his diet, drug schedule, medication schedule - almost like a little child." Rothko would turn up at his office without an appointment convinced there was something wrong with him and "just could not be convinced" otherwise.

Dr. Allen Meade:

"... you'd finish examining and talking with him [Rothko], and then he would sort of hang on with this very depressed affect, this sort of waiting for something else, a very morose look. I don't think I ever saw the poor man smile. He was just waiting for you to say something further. And there was nothing else to say, and so I would help him on with his coat, and then he would sort of shuffle out like a very depressed individual." (RO492)

September 13, 1968: Mark Rothko writes a new will.

Rothko turned to Bernard Reis to draft the will - "Bernie, you know I hate attorneys. I hate going up in elevators... Will you prepare something for me?" (RO492)

In his new Will Rothko left the 95th Street house and its contents (including 44 of his paintings), plus $250,000 to Mell or, if she should die, to be divided equally between Kate and Christopher. The remaining works of art were left to the Mark Rothko Foundation whose directors were to be Bernard Reis, Theodoros Stamos, Morton Levine, William Rubin (curator of Modern Painting and Sculpture at the Museum of Modern Art) and Robert Goldwater. If Mell also died, Anne-Marie and Morton Levine would act as guardians for the children. Levine, Stamos, and Reis were named as executors of the Will. No purpose was stated for the Mark Rothko Foundation. (RO492)

September 18, 1968: Willem De Kooning retrospective in Holland opens at the Stedelijk. (DK512/506)

Willem De Kooning arrived in Holland on September 15th to attend the opening. Prior to the retrospective, there were only three works by de Kooning in Holland - two in the permanent collection of the Stedelijk and a third in a private collection. (DK507)

Accompanying de Kooning to Holland was Joan Ward, their daughter Lisa, and his old Dutch friend Leo Cohan. The Stedelijk, who were paying for the trip, initially objected to the inclusion of Cohan. After de Kooning told them that if Cohan didn't go, he wasn't going either, the museum relented and paid for all their fares at a cost of almost $4,000. (DK509) They traveled by ship and were met in Rotterdam by Pablo's Picasso's son, Claude, who was covering de Kooning's visit for Life magazine. De Kooning's half-brother from his father's second marriage, Leendert de Kooning, was also on hand to meet them, along with Leendert's wife and daughter. (Although de Kooning's mother was still alive, his father had passed away.)

From Rotterdam the group traveled by Rotterdam to Amsterdam in a limousine provided by the Stedelijk. De Kooning asked the driver if he could drive around Rotterdam first to see the city he had left, but most of the city had been bombed out during the war and the only thing that was the same was the town hall and post office. (They were brand new when de Kooning had lived there). (DK509)

When they reached their hotel in Amsterdam, the Amstel Hotel, it was filled with reporters, art fans and critics. The New York Times reported "When a biographical film of Mr. de Kooning was shown on television last night, the staff of the hotel watched with such awe that one Dutchman remarked, 'It's almost like the coronation." (DK512) When asked by one Dutch reporter who the reigning artists were in America, de Kooning answered, "Oldenburg, Newman, Rauschenberg and, nuttiest of all, Warhol." (DK513)

The show's opening was laden with ceremony. The U.S. Ambassador gave a tribute to de Kooning in Dutch who appeared "unmoved" according to press reports. The truth was that de Kooning had not spoken Dutch for a considerable period of time and thought the ceremony would be in English. He was awarded the first international Talens Prize, which included a stipend of $2,750 (considerably less than the museum had just shelled out in ship fares for him and his party). After the ceremony, de Kooning seemed desperate to leave. According to one reviewer, Charlotte Willard, De Kooning "ran through the galleries without a glance at his pictures, and would have run right out onto the street if brick walls hadn't stopped him." (DK513)

Bill spotted Marie in the crowd - his sister who had looked after him when he was down and out in Rotterdam - the sister who had left packages for him while he was living with other homeless people on the barges. He left the opening with his sister and one of the daughters of Koos Lassoy without actually seeing the whole show. Lassoy was de Kooning's half brother - the son of his mother and her second husband, Jacobus Lassooy. De Kooning and Marie escaped to the coffee bar at the Amstel Hotel. The day after the opening Marie and Koos collected Bill, Joan Ward and Lisa at the hotel and drove them back to Rotterdam to visit his mother, Cornelia.

September 19, 1968: Willem de Kooning visits his mother.

De Kooning's mother was staying in a PNIEL nursing home which de Kooning was helping to pay for. According to Koos, "He didn't want to go, but we persuaded him, and I think he was surprised by her fragility. And relieved. Only she mattered, and she and Wim [Willem] had fought constantly." (DK514)

De Kooning found his mother as fragile as "a trembling little old bird" and commented after the visit, "That's the person I feared most in the whole world." (DK514)

The next day de Kooning and his sister's son, Antonie Breedveld, returned to the Stedelijk to see the retrospective but, put off by the crowds, went instead to visit the van Goghs in the museum. The next few days were spent sightseeing. When he was taken to nearby Haarlem and had lunch at a "castle like" building, de Kooning said "It was like old times, seeing its decoration in the style of the Gidding Brothers." (DK515)

De Kooning initially planned on traveling to Spain after Holland - he wanted to see the Goya and Velázquez paintings in the Prado - but ended up returning to New York. The retrospective was due to travel to The Museum of Modern Art in March 1969 (after the Tate in London) and a Knoedler show of his latest works was to run concurrent with it. (DK516)

October 2, 1968: Marcel Duchamp dies in Neuilly-sur-Seine, France.
(http://www.nndb.com/people/144/000065946/)

October 8, 1968: Willem de Kooning's mother dies.

Less than a month after de Kooning visited his mother in Holland, he received word that she was dead. He initially kept the information to himself. When Joan Ward heard about it from Thomas Hess she asked de Kooning about it. According to Joan, "I said, 'Bill did your mother die?' 'Yeah.' 'When?' About two weeks ago.' I opened my mouth to say, 'Why didn't you tell me?' and then I closed it." (DK516)

October 12, 1968: The director of the Tate Gallery writes to Mark Rothko about the Seagram murals.

The director of the Tate, Norman Reid, suggested that they assemble a group of Rothko's murals for the planned room at the Tate, indicating that Sketch for Mural No. 6 should be included. Reid also suggested including a second group of paintings "in a somewhat different register, so that we should have, so to speak, contralto as well as bass." (RO668n15)

Late October/November 1968: Artists protest Mayor Daley's actions at Richard Feigen Gallery, Chicago.
(http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,839608,00.html)

After Daley's heavy-handed actions in dealing with the demonstrators at the Democratic Convention in August, artists had signed a petition in September saying that they would not show in Chicago for two years to protest his actions. Richard Feigen, with the help of Claes Oldenburg who had an exhibition of his work scheduled for November in the gallery. Oldenberg was in the city at the time of the convention and, according to him, he was " "tossed to the ground by six swearing troopers who kicked me and choked me and called me a Communist." Feigen had attended the convention only to be shoved into the aisle by Daley's sanitation workers. Oldenberg helped Feigen convince artists to participate in the protest exhibition.

For the exhibition Oldenberg created a series of 48 reproductions of Chicago's red fireplugs and a drawing for a "proposed colossal monument" for the city featuring Mayor Daley's head on a platter. Barnett Newman made a "Lace Curtain for Mayor Daley" of barbed wire from the police barricades splattered with red paint. Robert Motherwell sent two previously completed works which did not refer to Chicago, commenting that "The significance is to participate."

Other artists included William Copley and sculptors Robert Morris and Hans Breder, among others.

November 1968: Mark Rothko begins an inventory of his works.

Morton Levine was hired to photograph the work, Dan Rice, who had experience in cataloguing Franz Kline's estate and had worked as Rothko's assistant, was hired to help with the inventory. Rothko's assistants, Jonathan Ahearn (from late 68 to early 69) and Oliver Steindecker (after Ahearn) also helped.

Both Rice and Ahearn recall Rothko drinking heavily during this period. Rice recalled that sometimes Rothko would "already be drunk or busy about getting drunk" when he would arrive in the morning. Ahearn recalled frequent trips to the liquor store to replenish Rothko's supply of scotch and cleaning up broken glasses and bottles dropped by Rothko who had "become very forgetful." Ahearn would later comment that Rothko "clearly was preparing for his own death." (RO493)

Thanksgiving 1968: Willem de Kooning and Joan Ward survive a car crash.

After attending Thanksgiving dinner (and drinks) at the home of Cile Lord Downs, Joan Ward and de Kooning were involved in a car crash when their automobile crashed into a telephone pole. De Kooning's head smashed into the windshield and Ward broke three teeth and injured her right hand. De Kooning wrote to the Hirshhorns: "We could have been killed. Twas a miracle. We're going very, very slow. That saved us. Right into a telephone pole... It's a very funny thing. This one awfull [sic] lousy moment - that fat - black creosoted pole... and then... like Jacky Gleason says - ... away we go!" (DK517)

December 8, 1968: Willem de Kooning retrospective opens at the Tate Gallery in London. (DK516)

De Kooning had planned to attend the retrospective but was still recuperating from his car accident and cancelled the trip. Critical reaction to the show was mixed. Edward Lucie-Smith's review (titled "Victim of History") which appeared in the December 8 issue of The Times, noted "De Kooning seems to have run through as many periods as Picasso, and the indications are that these changes are the product, not of originality but of uncertainty." Commenting on de Kooning's colours, he wrote "... the artist 'thinks pink' till finally we are no longer looking at countryside but candyfloss." He continued: "The nudes, meanwhile, edge closer and closer to the banal hues of a Vogue colour-spread, but the colours are employed, alas, without a trace of irony." (DK517)

December 9, 1968: Mark Rothko sees a psychiatrist.

The appointment had been arranged by Bernard Reis. Dr. Nathan Kline's office was located on 69th Street, just two blocks away from Rothko's studio. Reis, fearful that Rothko would not show up, accompanied Rothko to his first appointment. Klein championed the use of of drugs to treat depressives which "in many instances" he would later write, could be identified "on sight." According to Kline, "the inner anguish that afflicts them is signaled in may ways by small outward signs such as dress, posture, gait and manner." A book was published in 1974 by Kline titled From Sad to Glad in which he claimed to have treated 5,000 depressives, with about 85% going from "sad" to "glad" through the use of psychopharmacology. For Rothko he prescribed Sinequan and Valium, without first consulting Rothko's medical doctors, Dr. Grokest and Dr. Meade. (RO533) On top of his alcohol intake, Rothko was now taking an anti-depressant and a highly addictive benzodiazepine.

Dr. Nathan Kline [in From Sad to Glad]:

"The depressive is often quite consciously guilty, and what he feels guilty about is being depressed... I sometimes tell my depressed patients that they are suffering from one of nature's forces - a kind of storm within the brain. They will ride out the storm far more easily if they do not try to dredge up reasons as to why they brought such trouble on themselves."

According to Kline, therapy was "usually completed in a matter of months at a typical cost of around $500" and "Once the treatment is well established, the typical patient visit requires about fifteen minutes. For a good many it's even quicker. They are in and out of my office in five to ten minutes, pausing just long enough to report that all is going well." (RO674n42)

When Rothko appeared at Dr. Meade's office without an appointment a few days after his appointment with Klein, Meade thought Rothko seemed "totally disoriented, disturbed and dazed." He knew that Sinequan could cause changes in heart rhythm, saying later that "it would not be your first line of thought" when treating a heart patient and that there was "No question in my mind that he was way overmedicated." (RO534) Meade attempted to lower Rothko's dosage but "every time I would cut down a medication or change it or stop something, Rothko would check with him [Kline] and than it would be changed back very shortly." (RO534)

When Rothko visited Dr. Grokest, again just a few days after seeing Kline, he told him that the Sinequan frightened him and asked Grokest what he should do. Grokest told Rothko to stop taking the medication. Several days later Kline rang Grokest accusing him of interfering with his treatment of Rothko. When Kline rang Grokest again, Grokest refused to speak to him. Kline then sent a registered letter to Grokest saying that Rothko was depressed and suicidal. (RO534) Rothko continued to see Kline and to take both the Sinequan and Valium that the doctor prescribed. Bernard Malamud, who first met Rothko when both attended Lyndon Johnson's inaugural party, visited Rothko in 1969 and Rothko told him that he had experienced a bad depression after his aneurysm until he had seen a psychiatrist who'd given him a new drug that had lifted his depression and enabled him to work again. (RO534)

c. Late 1960s: Robert Motherwell begins incorporating images of Gauloises cigarette packets into his paintings.

Robert Motherwell [1971]:

"I remember when in the last few years I made a series of aquatints with the Gauloises blue cigarette package - because I love that blue as part of the image - Helen Frankenthaler looking at me with stupefaction and saying, 'I can't imagine you being a Pop artist.' And certainly from the French point of view it must look like Pop Art. To me it looked as exotic as Tahiti must have looked to French travelers. (SR)

According to Motherwell, "a certain ultramarine blue" was referred to by "some people in New York" as 'Motherwell blue.'

Robert Motherwell:

"... when I came to New York to study with meyer Schapiro I lived near him and I used to drag around my latest picture at eleven o'clock at night I realize now to his great annoyance. I would ask him, "what do you think of it?" He told me a couple of good things I don't mean about the painting but about what it is to be an artist. There was one picture he rather like. He said, "Go home and make a lot of them. What it is to be an artist is to get to know your own forms." And I would say that in that sense there are certain colors that have become my colors; they're yellow ochre, black and white, a certain ultramarine blue (in fact some people in New York call it 'Motherwell blue'), and so on. Colors are no different than shapes. Anybody recognizes a Tanguy shape, or a Magritte shape, or a Miro shape. Well, one has to use color as personally and as exactly as one does shapes." (SR)

Late 1968: Mark Rothko proposes giving the Phillips Collection "first choice of a group" of paintings.

Rothko wanted a permanent space for his paintings, asking for "the promise that they would never be moved even temporarily to another gallery." Marjorie Phillips wrote to Rothko on December 1, 1968, that although it was Phillips' policy to to keep works on exhibit, they needed "to be able to move them now and then if some contingency should arise such as a large loan exhibition." (RO670n23)

to 1969

abstract expressionism

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