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).
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.