This is likely an image of Edith, Rothko’s wife, at her worktable. In the mid-1930s, Edith Sachar (1912–1981) studied sculpture at the New York School of Arts and Trades with Aaron Goodelman (1890–1978). Rothko painted her practicing the art in three canvases (figs. 1–3), and several of his works on paper depict women sculpting (see Related Works on Paper). The form at the right edge of the current work may well be one of Edith’s early sculptures. She also studied metalwork and jewelry. Later in the decade Rothko produced a small series of sketches (see Related Works on Paper) and still life paintings of what are almost certainly Edith’s tools (figs. 4, 5), which are possibly visible at the left edge of the current watercolor. She taught crafts part-time at the Center Academy of the Brooklyn Jewish Center [James E. B. Breslin, Mark Rothko: A Biography (Chicago and London, 1993), 143], where Rothko taught art two days a week.
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.