Mandolin Player

10 x 8 in. (25.4 x 20.3 cm)
Lower right in graphite: MRothkowitz
Estate/Inventory Number
Collection of Christopher Rothko. © Kate Rothko Prizel and Christopher Rothko
Signed and at one time matted (the original mount, now removed, was inscribed on the verso “M Rothkowitz / Mandolin Player $10”), this watercolor was possibly exhibited during Rothko’s lifetime. It may have been displayed during the summer of 1933 in Drawings and Water Colors by M. Rothkowitz at the Museum of Art, Portland, Oregon. No checklist exists for the show, but a review evokes this and similar works in praising the selection of “spontaneously conceived and executed . . . rich and velvety” black watercolors, noting that they were made with show card (an affordable paint generally used in commercial signage) on “sheets from a 10 cent tablet of linen writing paper” [Catherine Jones, “Noted One-Man Show / Artist One-Time Portland Resident,” Sunday Oregonian, July 30, 1933]. Rothko and his two brothers played the mandolin, and he shared his interest in the mandolin with his first wife, Edith Sachar (1912–1981), early in their relationship. Rothko occasionally used the mandolin as a prop, and Adolph Gottlieb (1903–1974) portrayed Rothko with a mandolin around the time Rothko painted this watercolor (fig. 1).
Mandolin Player
1. Adolph Gottlieb, Untitled (Mark Rothko with Mandolin), c. 1932, crayon on paper, Art © Adolph and Esther Gottlieb Foundation/Licensed by VAGA, New York, NY.