Just after Rothko completed the paintings, he was struck with an aortic aneurysm. His mental health subsequently declined. His separation from his wife in 1969 and an emphysema diagnosis only exacerbated the decline. In 1970, Rothko committed suicide in his studio. When the De Menils’ chapel opened the next year, Dominique praised the late painter. “Like all great artists who follow an inner call, he sacrificed everything superfluous to his vision. The message he had to deliver was a timeless one,” she offered.
Rothko’s spirit lives on in his moving, reflective paintings. He left behind hundreds of canvases, testifying to both his devotion to the studio and to his unwavering commitment to advancing modern art. As his son wrote, despite an indebtedness to his predecessors, “the artist, for my father, is nonetheless a great Romantic hero, wielding a brush mightier than pen or sword.” Rothko achieved this valor with his masterful juxtapositions of color applied to large-scale canvases to elicit near-religious responses.