[Bathers on the beach]

12 5/16 x 15 in. (31.3 x 38.1 cm)
Lower right in white paint: MRothko[witz]
Estate/Inventory Number
National Gallery of Art, Gift of The Mark Rothko Foundation, Inc., 1986.43.199. © Kate Rothko Prizel and Christopher Rothko
This watercolor of a group of bathers on the beach was almost certainly painted in Gloucester, Massachusetts, during the summer of 1934 when Rothko and Edith vacationed there with the Averys—Milton (1885–1965), Sally, and March—and Esther and Adolph Gottlieb (1903–1974). Gottlieb recalled that he and Avery would “go out and make sketches of Gloucester Harbor or people on the beach . . . and then go home and paint them” [Miriam Roberts, Adolph Gottlieb (Omaha, NE, 1980), 8]. The current work appears to be based on just such a sketch made on the beach (see Related Works on Paper) and is signed and overmatted, indicating it may have been exhibited in Rothko’s lifetime. It is possible that the current work was shown in The Eighth Biennial Exhibition of Water Colors, Pastels and Drawings by American and Foreign Artists at the Brooklyn Museum in February 1935, which included works titled Bathers and On the Sands—it may even have been the work shown as On the Sands. The signature appears to have originally read “MRothkowitz” before it was effaced, presumably by the artist, to read “MRothko.” This change was most likely made after 1940, when Rothko began using a truncated version of his given surname. The white opaque paint used for the signature recalls the signature on The Bathers, pointing to the probability of synchronous execution. The number assigned during Rothko’s inventory of 1968/1969 erroneously signifies a creation date of 1925–1927 for this work.