Signed and at one time matted (the original mount, now removed, was inscribed on the verso “#9 M Rothkowitz $15”), this watercolor was likely exhibited during Rothko’s lifetime. It may have been displayed during the summer of 1933 in Drawings and Water Colors by M. Rothkowitz at the Museum of Art, Portland, Oregon. No checklist exists for the show, but a review evokes this and similar works in praising the selection of “spontaneously conceived and executed . . . rich and velvety” black watercolors, noting that they were made with show card (an affordable paint generally used in commercial signage) on “sheets from a 10 cent tablet of linen writing paper” [Catherine Jones, “Noted One-Man Show Artist One-Time Portland Resident,” Sunday Oregonian, July 30, 1933]. Although the checklist of Rothko’s first one-man show—at Contemporary Arts in New York in November 1933—does not include a title that fits this drawing’s subject precisely, it is possible that it could have been shown as “no. 20, Young Girl Seated.” The signature on this work closely resembles those on [Head of a man wearing eyeglasses] and [Woman in hat], pointing to the possibility of synchronous execution. The black watercolor is also firmly related to Rothko’s 1932/1933 canvas Woman Combing Hair (fig. 1), which was included in his first one-man show in November 1933 at Contemporary Arts, and Rothko revisited the subject in another watercolor (see Related Works on Paper).
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.