Marsden Hartley

American, 1877 - 1943
Born in Lewiston, Maine, Marsden Hartley became one of the most famous early American modernist artists of twentieth-century. His painting showed a focus on monumental shapes, especially clouds and landscape forms, and his unique style has been described by critic Sadakichi Hartmann as "an extreme and up-to-date impressionism" and "emerging modernism that evolved through Impressionism". (Gerdts 291) He studied art in Cleveland, Ohio and then in 1898 went to the Chase School in New York and the National Academy of Design. He continued to spend much of his time in Maine painting landscapes, and by 1909 had his first exhibition, which was held at New York Gallery 291, run by Alfred Stieglitz. There he became involved with a social circle of modernists that included Georgia O'Keeffe, Arthur Dove, and John Marin. In 1912, he went to Europe where he had further exposure to modernism, and from 1913 to 1915 he was in Germany. In Paris, he experimented with Cezanne-like still lifes and was befriended by Gertrude Stein. In Germany, he was influenced by Expressionism, and especially by military pageantry. It is said that his greatest contribution to early 20th-century American modernism was his brilliant synthetic military icons known as German Officer Portraits. He developed a close homosexual relationship with a handsome young Prussian officer who was killed in World War I. Being encouraged by Stieglitz to explore American subjects, Hartley turned to American Indian objects and designs. In 1918, he eagerly accepted an invitation of Mabel Dodge and her husband, artist Maurice Sterne, to visit them in Taos, New Mexico. By then, a Colony of Artists of eastern painters had formed, but Hartley remained aloof from them because he thought them provincial in their rejection of modernism. However, he loved the surroundings and did landscapes and Indian paintings, and this New Mexico work became the subject of a 1998 traveling exhibition titled "Marsden Hartley: American Modern," organized by the Weisman Art Museum at the University of Minnesota. In 1919, he returned to New York and completed a set of oils on New Mexico subjects, which had influenced his style to be somewhat more realistic. During the next decade, he spent much time in Europe, New England, and Mexico and was joined in Mexico by photographer Paul Strand, painter Andrew Dasburg, and poet Hart Crane. In 1936 he painted for several years in the fishing community of Blue Rocks, Nova Scotia, and he also continued to do many landscapes of his native Maine where he spent his last years.
Marsden Hartley Paintings
Marsden Hartley, born in 1877, began his studies at the age of 15 on a scholarship to the Cleveland School of Art. He continued on to the Chase School in 1898 and then to the National Academy of Design and the Art Students League in 1900, all located in New York City. Hartley was an early Modernist launched by Alfred Stieglitz at the 291 Gallery. From 1913 to 1915 Hartley traveled and lived in Berlin, creating created bold, expressionistic work. After 1918, Hartley's work turned to abstracted landscapes with powerful form and color. His mountain landscapes were produced in "stitch style", the Post-Impressionist brush style of Giovanni Segantini. Hartley also exhibited "Painting Number 5" (1914) with the Blaue Reiter (Blue Rider) group, which depicted motifs of military life in vivid symbolism. The last 12 years of Hartley's work consisted of a style uniquely his own, expressing emotion in blocky form and intense color.

Biography courtesy of The Caldwell Gallery,
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