[Man in chair playing mandolin]

12 x 8 1/2 in. (30.5 x 21.6 cm)
Estate/Inventory Number
W 537
Collection of Christopher Rothko. © Kate Rothko Prizel and Christopher Rothko
In the summer of 1934 Rothko and his wife Edith Sachar (1912–1981) vacationed in Gloucester, Massachusetts, with the Averys—Milton (1885–1965), Sally, and March—and Esther and Adolph Gottlieb (1903–1974). Edith remembered “sketch classes at night at someone’s studio, down in Gloucester” [Edith (Sachar) Carson, interviewed by Walter Hopps, October 19, 1976, Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution]. This drawing may have been made during the summer of 1934 as it resembles a watercolor of the same general subject likely made during one of those sketching sessions. The identity of the man in the watercolor is unknown, but the subject of the current drawing resembles Gottlieb, who made a very similar drawing of Rothko playing the mandolin (fig.1).  Given the similarities between the watercolor and the pair of drawings, it is tempting to imagine that Rothko and Gottlieb made their drawings in the summer of 1934, although the drawing by Gottlieb is dated c. 1932 by the Gottlieb Foundation. The mandolin may have belonged to Rothko—he and his two brothers played the instrument—and was a favored prop.
[Man in chair playing mandolin]
1. Adolph Gottlieb, Untitled (Mark Rothko with Mandolin), c. 1932, crayon on paper, Art © Adolph and Esther Gottlieb Foundation/Licensed by VAGA, New York, NY.