This watercolor measuring twenty-one inches high by thirty inches wide is divided into three gray horizontal bands. The top and middle bands are of equal height, while the bottom band is half-height. The top and bottom bands are dark gray; the middle band is lighter. Against this background, spindly lines of black India ink reach across and through the zones. In the middle of the upper register, a set of six tendrils surmounted by solid black dots comes together like spindly fingers on a hand, uniting in a stem that then spreads into a fan of lines—and perhaps a tail–below. In the upper register, to its left, the dark gray background wash has been wiped away and a single sinuous line descends, scribing a vague profile that leads from short arcing streaks of intense cobalt blue at the top to a tail of five quick swipes of cobalt at its bottom. To the right of the central tendril-like form, another elongated set of lines like daddy-longlegs spider legs reaches from the top clear to the bottom of the image; the background has once again wiped away to highlight this form. As its tendrils reach into the lower register, they mingle with other low-lying lines that loop through this zone.
Mark Rothko
Tentacles of Memory, ca. 1945-1946

Artwork Info

Artwork title
Tentacles of Memory
Artist name
Mark Rothko
Date created
ca. 1945-1946
ink and watercolor on paper
21 3/4 in. x 30 in. (55.25 cm x 76.2 cm)
Date Acquired
Collection SFMOMA
Albert M. Bender Collection, Albert M. Bender Bequest Fund purchase
© 1998 Kate Rothko Prizel & Christopher Rothko / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York
Permanent URL
Artwork Status
Not on view at this time.

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