Mark Rothko: Toward the Light in the Chapel, the French cultural historian Annie Cohen-Solal’s new biography on the artist, focuses on his Jewish identity. Cohen-Solal theorizes that Rothko was a “passeur,” someone who traveled between cultures and navigated their differences, which enabled him to become “an agent of transformation” through his art. Cohen-Solal traces his life from birth in Dvinsk, Latvia, to childhood immigration to America and emergence as an avant-garde artist, emphasizing experiences she claims unsettled Rothko and furthered his passage among cultures. Sometimes, though, she leaps over experiences such as his first marriage to a Jewish woman (barely mentioned) or the quarter-century spent teaching in a Jewish school, presumably because they do not fit her central theme.

Cohen-Solal focuses on the class...

 

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