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Crocker Art Museum

Marsden Hartley "Portrait"

Marsden Hartley "Portrait"

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From: Crocker Art Museum
Limited Edition: 14
Exhibition: Marsden Hartley: American Modern
Material: Printed vinyl
Dimensions: 30" x 71" (76cm x 180cm)

Hanging Hardware Included



Marsden Hartley (1877-1943) was a member of a vibrant group of artists working around Alfred Stieglitz in New York City. This circle also included the painters Arthur Dove, John Marin, and Georgia O'Keeffe, and the photographer Paul Strand. These artists forged a new direction in modern art, breaking with the conventions of traditional visual arts.

It was Stieglitz who funded Hartley's first trip to Europe in 1912. Studying in Paris with Gertrude Stein, Hartley found he was not impressed with the French, as he bluntly put it, "If there was ever a more ridiculous lot of males as a clan it is these Frenchmen." He was much more impressed with the Germans, and found an affinity with German culture, spirituality, and art by the likes of Kandinsky and Klee. Perhaps this affinity had less to do with art, and more to do with the fact that Berlin was the homosexual capital of Europe at the time. As a closeted homosexual, Hartley felt liberated in Berlin and he wrote to Stieglitz, "I have lived rather gaily in the Berlin fashion -- with all that implies."

In the midst of World War I, Hartley painted his War Motifs, powerful abstract paintings that were a tribute to male friendship and to a fallen officer believed to have been Hartley's lover. The paintings were summarily rejected in the US as too controversial, praising German imperialism and militarism, and they did not sell.

Hartley finally settled back in his home state of Maine, and it is from this time that the painting on this banner comes. Having explored abstraction in Europe, back in the US Hartley's work became more representational again. He painted the statuesque landscapes and people of Maine, and was particularly fond of images of fishermen and the sea. He had fallen in love with the son of a Nova Scotian family, and when he drowned at sea, Hartley eulogized him in the work on this banner, Adelard the Drowned, Master of "The Phantom". Painted around 1938, the work is a touching portrait of the young, swarthy fisherman. His open shirt and broad, rugged shape are softened by a flower Hartley has placed in his hair. The painting's bold outlines and immediacy look fresh today, and show just how modern Hartley's eye was for a painter in the 1930s. Below the image is a white band with red text that reads, "Marsden Hartley/September 30 - January 29". Both sides of this banner are identical.


These banners were displayed around Sacramento, California to promote the exhibition Marsden Hartley: American Modern at the Crocker Art Museum, September 30, 2005 - January 29, 2006. The exhibition was organized by the Frederick R. Weissman Art Museum in Minneapolis and was also seen at the Memphis Brooks Museum of Art, Norton Simon Museum of Art, Joslyn Museum of Art, Parrish Art Museum, Tacoma Art Museum, Portland Museum of Art and at venues in Louisiana, Texas and Pennsylvania.

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