Mark Rothko, born Marcus Rothkowitz (September 25, 1903 – February 25, 1970), was a Latvian-born American painter. He is classified as an abstract expressionist, although he himself rejected this label, and even resisted the classification as an "abstract painter".
Mark Rothko (Marcus Rothkowitz, Mark Rotkovich) was born in Dvinsk, Vitebsk Province, Russian Empire (now Daugavpils, Latvia). His father, Jacob Rothkowitz, was a pharmacist and an intellectual, who provided his children with a secular and political, rather than religious, upbringing. Unlike Jews in most cities of Czarist Russia, those in Dvinsk had been spared from violent outbreaks of anti-Semitic pogroms. However, in an environment where Jews were often blamed for many of the evils that befell Russia, Rothko’s early childhood was plagued with fear.
Despite Jacob Rothkowitz's modest income, the family was highly educated, and able to speak Russian, Yiddish and Hebrew. Following Jacob's return to Orthodox Judaism, he sent Marcus, his youngest son, to the cheder at age 5, where he studied the Talmud although his elder siblings had been educated in the public school system.