This is a portrait of Irene Golden (b. 1921), a student at the Center Academy of the Brooklyn Jewish Center, where she took art classes twice weekly with Rothko between 1929 and her graduation in 1934 (fig. 1). Irene’s parents, Samuel and Bella (Lasker) Golden, commissioned Rothko to paint an oil portrait of their daughter (fig. 2). They ultimately rejected the painting, finding it “too gloomy” [James E. B. Breslin, Mark Rothko: A Biography (Chicago and London, 1993), 115]. It was one of two paintings by Rothko included in Exhibition of Paintings and Sculpture by Brooklyn and Long Island Artists, Brooklyn Museum, January 29–February 26, 1934. A green armchair like the one in this watercolor appears in several works on paper and canvas made at Rothko's Brooklyn apartment (1000 Park Place), where he and his wife Edith lived from the fall of 1933 to late 1935 (see Related Works on Paper). The current work, in which Irene wears the same pink blouse and blue dress as in the painting, must therefore have been done during one of several sittings for Rothko in his Brooklyn apartment at 1000 Park Place, likely at some point between Rothko’s return from Portland, Oregon, in September 1933 and the opening of the Brooklyn exhibition at the end of January, a date corroborated by the sitter [Irene Golden Dash, interviewed by Laili Nasr, June 27, 2016]. Irene Golden Dash taught English literature at Hunter College, CUNY, from 1972 until 2004, and was the author of several scholarly books on the work of William Shakespeare.
1. Photograph of Irene Golden, c. 1935. Courtesy Irene Golden Dash.
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.