During the summer of 1933 Rothko and Edith Sachar (1912–1981), who married in November 1932, hitchhiked from New York to Portland, Oregon, to visit Rothko’s mother [Maurice Roth, oral history interview, September 15, 1984, Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution, Washington, DC]. They camped in Forest Park, in the Tualatin Mountains west of downtown Portland, where Rothko produced numerous watercolors, including, most likely, this study. In July 1933, the Museum of Art in Portland organized an exhibition of Rothko’s work. A critic noted, “The water colors are chiefly landscapes and studies of forests in which the artist has sought to retain the effect of complexity one finds in the out-of-doors and to show its ultimate order and beauty. A hint of his admiration for Cézanne is in these water colors. They are carefully thought out and in no way theatrical or dramatic” [Catherine Jones, “Noted One-Man Show / Artist One-Time Portland Resident,” Sunday Oregonian, July 30, 1933]. While this watercolor shows evidence of having been matted, it is unsigned and thus unlikely to have been in the 1933 Portland exhibition. Furthermore, it is marked by loose cancellation marks in black crayon, indicating that Rothko was not satisfied; if this sheet were matted, it is more likely that the image on the other side was favored by Rothko for display. Both sides are, however, representative of the type of landscape watercolors that Rothko made in Portland that summer (see Related Works on Paper).
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.