Rothko's earliest work, Expressionist landscapes and still lifes, show the influence of artist Milton Avery whom Rothko befriended shortly after arriving in New York. From 1935 to 1940 the artist was associated with The Ten, a group of American Expressionists including Adolph Gottlieb who exhibited together in New York and Paris. During the 1940s, Rothko began to experiment with new media and techniques. In 1949 he arrived at his signature style of large rectangular fields of color stacked one above another and would work within this format for the rest of his career.
Rothko's abstractions were deeply personal statements that sought to provide a transcendental experience; he described his work as the "simple expression of complex thought." The late 1950s brought increasing recognition of his work along with several commissions for murals. These commissions afforded Rothko the opportunity to create color environments on a monumental scale. While achieving financial success and critical acclaim, Rothko battled depression and his brilliant career ended with the artist's tragic suicide in 1970.