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Dorothy C. Miller's notes on Mark Rothko, 1951

Dorothy C. Miller, scholar and champion of American art, joined the staff of the Museum in 1934 and was Senior Curator of Painting and Sculpture upon her retirement from the Museum in 1969. This page of notes about the work of Abstract Expressionist artist Mark Rothko was taken during a gallery visit by Miller in preparation for her exhibition Fifteen Americans (MoMA Exh. #507, April 9-July 27, 1952). In the notes, "#10 - MMA?" indicates that Miller considered Rothko's Number Ten (1950) as a possible acquisition for the Museum. Architect Phillip Johnson, founding Chairman of the Department of Architecture and Design (1949-54) and Trustee (1957-present), purchased the painting from the Betty Parsons Gallery and gave it to the Museum in March 1952, making it the first Rothko to enter the Museum's permanent collection.

Fifteen Americans was one of Miller's six "Americans" exhibitions, in which each artist included in the show was exhibited in a separate gallery. The artists varied significantly in choice of medium and style. In the foreword to the exhibition catalogue, which was made up of statements by the individual artists, Miller wrote, "To this show of the work of fifteen painters and sculptors, separately exhibited, the artists' own statements, thoughtful, evocative, poetic, will prove the best introduction." In his statement, Rothko wrote, "The progression of a painter's work, as it travels in time from point to point, will be toward clarity: toward the elimination of all obstacles between the painter and the idea, and between the idea and the observer... To achieve this clarity is, inevitably, to be understood."

The other artists included in the exhibition were William Baziotes, Edward Corbett, Edwin Dickinson, Herbert Ferber, Joseph Glasco, Herbert Katzman, Frederick Kiesler, Irving Kriesberg, Richard Lippold, Jackson Pollock, Herman Rose, Clyfford Still, Bradley Walker Tomlin and Thomas Wilfred.