This watercolor of two women in a beachlike landscape was most likely painted in Gloucester, Massachusetts, 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). Based on a graphite drawing of a similarly posed female couple (see Related Works on Paper), this watercolor appears to have been produced in the manner described by Gottlieb when he 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]. No setting is indicated in the drawing, which was likely done from life, so it is uncertain whether the indistinct landscape in the watercolor derived from reality or the artist’s imagination. The drawing is splattered with paint that closely resembles colors used in the watercolor, suggesting that Rothko had the earlier drawing close at hand when he made the watercolor, possibly splashing the drawing as he flicked his brush. This watercolor relates to a contemporaneous canvas depicting a group of females in an ambiguous landscape setting (fig. 1).
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.