[Wharf, Gloucester, Massachusetts]

1986.56.531
Date
Dimensions
12 5/16 x 15 in. (31.3 x 38.1 cm)
Estate/Inventory Number
N 19
Collection
National Gallery of Art, Gift of the Mark Rothko Foundation, Inc., 1986.56.531. © Kate Rothko Prizel and Christopher Rothko
Remarks
This watercolor was painted in Gloucester, Massachusetts, almost certainly during the summer of 1934 when Rothko and his wife Edith Sachar (1912–1981) vacationed there with the Averys—Milton (1885–1965), Sally, and March—and Esther and Adolph Gottlieb (1903–1974). It depicts the Reed and Gamage wharfs on the Inner Harbor near Smith Cove, the heart of Gloucester’s fishing industry (fig. 1) from a vantage point on Banner Hill, not far from Rothko’s rented house on Calder Street, East Gloucester. The shed on the wharf depicted in Rothko’s watercolor would have been used for processing salt fish; on the wharf in front of the shed Rothko records rows of drying racks called “fish flakes,” covered with white cloths to protect the filets from the sun. Rothko depicted this wharf, with its telltale water tank on the roof (at upper left in the current work), several times from varying points of view (fig. 2). Gottlieb also sketched it from a similar vantage point, possibly alongside Rothko during the summer of 1934, and worked up a detailed ink drawing (fig. 3).
1. Eben Parsons, view of the Reed and Gamage wharfs from Banner Hill, Gloucester, MA, 1912. Photograph courtesy Cape Ann Museum.
2. Mark Rothko, [Wharfs, Gloucester, Massachusetts], 1934, watercolor on construction paper, 12 1/4 x 14 15/16 in., Collection of Christopher Rothko, © Kate Rothko Prizel and Christopher Rothko.
3. Adolph Gottlieb, Untitled (One Gloucester Sketch), c. 1934, ink on paper, Art © Adolph and Esther Gottlieb Foundation/Licensed by VAGA, New York, NY.
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