During the summer of 1933 Rothko and Edith Sachar (1912–1981), who married in November 1932, hitchhiked from New York to Portland, Oregon, to visit Rothko’s mother [Maurice Roth, oral history interview, September 15, 1984, Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution]. This watercolor was likely made during their summer visit; it may be a view of the Columbia River, east of Portland, with Sand Island or Reed Island State Park in the background. Signed and previously adhered to a mat, this work may have been exhibited during Rothko’s lifetime, possibly in a summer 1933 exhibition at the Museum of Art in Portland. A critic reviewing the show noted, “The water colors are chiefly landscapes and studies of forests in which the artist has sought to retain the effect of complexity one finds in the out-of-doors and to show its ultimate order and beauty. A hint of his admiration for Cézanne is in these water colors. They are carefully thought out and in no way theatrical or dramatic” [Catherine Jones, “Noted One-Man Show Artist One-Time Portland Resident,” Sunday Oregonian, July 30, 1933].
Mark Rothko: Works on Paper will ultimately document approximately 2,600 works from public and private collections worldwide. Cataloging is ongoing, and works and information will be added to the site during the coming years.