Marsden Hartley: Madawaska - Acadian Light-Heavy, 1940
WASHINGTON, D.C. • The Phillips Collection • Ongoing
|Marsden Hartley (1877 - 1943) was a painter, poet, writer and pioneer of American modernism. Born in Lewiston, Maine, he lived a peripatetic life, working in Paris, Berlin, New York, Mexico, New Mexico, Bermuda and elsewhere before returning to Maine in 1934. |
This retrospective-the first in more than 20 years-features approximately 75 paintings that demonstrate the stylistic and thematic range of Hartley's innovative work. Included are early impressionist Maine landscapes, symbolic "Berlin" paintings, the cubistic "Provincetown" series, powerful landscapes of the American southwest, Mexico, France, and the Alps, and examples of the raw figurative style that characterizes Hartley's return to the Northeast.
In the last nine years of his life, Hartley reinvented himself as “the painter from Maine.” Coinciding with the Great Depression, this period marked his first sustained venture into figurative painting. Hartley consciously adopted a primitive style to celebrate the “sturdy simple people” with whom he identified. A variety of his late portraits, seascapes, and still lifes are recollections of the Masons, the Nova Scotia fishing family Hartley befriended in 1935. After he lived with them for about a year, their two sons were drowned in a capsized boat that sank in a storm. Indeed, love, loss, and memory impelled Hartley to create his most compelling images. Decidedly sensuous, Hartley’s semi-nude portraits of swimmers and wrestlers made in the late 1930s are powerful sexual images of men. Not uncommon among some Englishmen and Anglo-americans of that time, these paintings also reflect Hartley's awareness of Nazi propaganda and other bizarre notions about the Aryan male to which he might have subscribed (He left the United States for Europe in 1921). In 1942, the year before his death, Hartley began a series of still lifes with landscape or seascape backgrounds as well as his last landscape series depicting views of Mount Katahdin, Maine. After Washington D.C., this exhibition travels to the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, Kansas City, Missouri, from 11 October 2003 through 11 January 2004.
A catalogue has been published by Yale University Press in association with the Wadsworth Atheneum Museum of Art.
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