Marsden Hartley


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(b Lewiston, Me., 4 Jan. 1877; d Ellsworth, Me., 2 Sept. 1943).

American painter, whose work represents a diverse yet also highly personal response to European modernism. In 1909 he was given a one-man exhibition by Stieglitz, and in 1912 help from Stieglitz and Arthur B. Davies enabled him to travel to Europe—the beginning of the almost compulsive travels that lasted throughout his life (he was a lonely, reclusive, rather haunted character who never achieved much worldly success). Apart from a visit to New York in 1913, he lived in Europe until 1916. During these years he created a distinctive semi-abstract manner seen most famously in Painting No. 5 (1914–15, Whitney Mus., New York); this work represents a remarkably personal synthesis of modernist trends, being more closely structured and objective than German Expressionism and more freely patterned and highly coloured than French Cubism. In 1916 Hartley returned to America, and in 1918 said that he had grown weary of ‘emotional excitement in art’. He turned to landscape as his principal subject, working in a more representational but still highly formalized style. In 1921 he returned to Europe, stayed there for a decade, then continued his wandering life in the early 1930s, visiting Mexico in 1932, for example, when he painted a series of pictures of the volcano Popacatepetl. In 1934 he settled in his native Maine. The work of his final years (usually rugged mountain and coastal scenes) was characterized by blunt, block-like forms, showing a powerful feeling for the beauty and grandeur of nature.

Subjects: Art.

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