This watercolor recalls several mid-1880s pastels by Edgar Degas of a woman bathing in a shallow tub. Rothko could, feasibly, have seen an exemplary work from the series that was bequeathed by Louisine Havermeyer to the Metropolitan Museum of Art in 1929; it was included in an exhibition of Havermeyer’s collection from March 11 to November 2, 1930 (fig. 1). If Rothko knew the Degas pastel, he has replicated the pose but reversed the perspective in the current work. Using minimal means, he evoked Degas’s tub with bold blue strokes and suggested the folds and shadows of the white towel in the wavy white and blue brushstrokes at upper right.
1. Edgar Degas, Woman Bathing in a Shallow Tub, 1885, charcoal and pastel on light green wove paper, Metropolitan Museum of Art, H. O. Havemeyer Collection, Bequest of Mrs. H. O. Havemeyer, 1929, 29.100.41.
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.