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.
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.