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Artists Marsden Hartley
Marsden Hartley Photo

Marsden Hartley

American Painter and Writer

Movements and Styles: Dada, Post-Impressionism, Early American Modernism, Realism

Born: January 4, 1877 - Lewiston, Maine

Died: September 2, 1943 - Ellsworth, Maine

Marsden Hartley Timeline

Quotes

"Nativeness is built of such primitive things, and whatever is one's natureness, one holds and never loses no matter how far afield the traveling may be."
Marsden Hartley
"My work embodies little visions of the great intangible... Some will say he's gone mad - others will look and say he's looked in at the lattices of Heaven and come back with the madness of splendor on him."
Marsden Hartley
"I could never be French - I could never become German - I shall always remain American - the essence which is in me is American mysticism just as Davies declared it when he saw those first landscapes."
Marsden Hartley
"I want to be life and not myself... just a wholesome supply of magnanimous life."
Marsden Hartley
"... My return to nature by way of looking at Alps all these months has turned me into something of an infant Alp myself."
Marsden Hartley
"Who would waste time thinking of the Italianism of Leonardo? The creative spirit is at home wherever the spirit finds breath to draw. It is neither national or international."
Marsden Hartley
"The inherent magic in the appearance of the world about me, engrossed and amazed me. No cloud or blossom or bird or human ever escaped me."
Marsden Hartley
"I want my work in both writing and painting to have that special coolness, for I am weary of emotional excitement in art, wary of episode, of legend and of special histories."
Marsden Hartley
"As a painter I have to have a mountain."
Marsden Hartley
"I am not a 'book of the month' artist and do not paint pretty pictures; but when I am no longer here my name will register forever in the history of American art and so that's something too."
Marsden Hartley

"It is never difficult to see images - when the principle image is embedded in the soul."

Marsden Hartley Signature

Synopsis

Marsden Hartley, one of the first American artists to paint in a completely abstract mode, was part of the circle of artists, including Georgia O'Keeffe, Arthur Dove, Charles Demuth, and John Marin, who congregated around and were promoted by photographer Alfred Stieglitz. Hartley incorporated into his own paintings the abstract trends that he witnessed first - hand during his time among avant-garde artists in Europe during the 1910s. While his early abstract style met with resistance back in the States, Hartley, undeterred, continued to paint his more recognizable subject matter with the same vivid colors, sharp contrasts, simplified forms, and ambiguous space that he mastered early in his career. His landscape paintings, imbued with the spirit of 19th - century American Transcendentalism, as well as his later portraits, which convey a love for and the earnestness of his subjects, are a uniquely American version of modernism that continue to resonate among younger contemporary artists today.

Key Ideas

While initially known for his more radical abstractions, Hartley used formal devices, such as strong colors and simplified forms, to convey the weightiness and groundedness of his preferred subjects, whether landscape, portraits, or genre scenes, that created a tension with the two-dimensionality of the picture plane.
Unlike his colleagues, Hartley spent several extended periods of time away from the United States, living in various parts of Europe as well as Mexico. These experiences exposed him to a much wider swath of avant-garde activity than was available in the U.S. as well as extended encounters with unfamiliar landscapes. One of the results of his travel, however, was an isolation from his fellow artists, which Hartley both welcomed and lamented.
Not a traditionally religious man, Hartley was steeped in the spiritual ideas of 19th-century Americans Ralph Waldo Emerson, Henry David Thoreau, and Walt Whitman. Additionally, he was drawn to Eastern religions such as Buddhism and Hinduism and was familiar with more esoteric traditions such as Theosophy. Hartley's own syncretic spirituality pervades many of his paintings, especially his landscapes.
While he rarely discussed his private relationships in public, many now surmise that Hartley had several homosexual relationships throughout his life. At various points, he commemorated these relationships - more subtly in his early painting and more overtly in his later paintings - making Hartley an important early touchstone for gay identity in the United States.

Biography

Marsden Hartley Photo

Childhood and Education

Edmund Hartley was the youngest of nine children born to English immigrant parents Thomas and Eliza Jane Hartley. The death of his mother when he was eight years old affected him profoundly; many years later, Hartley explained, "I was to know complete isolation from that moment forward." His family was soon after divided, with Hartley forced to live with an older sister in Auburn, Maine. To assuage his loneliness, he found solace in the comforting embrace of nature, something he would cling to throughout his life. Hartley's love of the outdoors also led him to imbibe the writings of American Transcendentalists Ralph Waldo Emerson and Henry David Thoreau in addition to the poetry of Walt Whitman.

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Marsden Hartley Biography Continues

Influences and Connections

Influences on Artist
Artists, Friends, Movements
Influenced by Artist
Artists, Friends, Movements
Marsden Hartley
Interactive chart with Marsden Hartley's main influences, and the people and ideas that the artist influenced in turn.
View Influences Chart

Artists

Paul CézannePaul Cézanne
Wassily KandinskyWassily Kandinsky
Franz MarcFranz Marc
Henri MatisseHenri Matisse
Albert Pinkham RyderAlbert Pinkham Ryder

Personal Contacts

Mabel Dodge LuhanMabel Dodge Luhan
Paul RosenbergPaul Rosenberg
Alfred StieglitzAlfred Stieglitz
Karl von Freyburg
Hudson Walker

Movements

DadaDada
ExpressionismExpressionism
Post-ImpressionismPost-Impressionism
Modernism and Modern ArtModernism and Modern Art
RealismRealism

Influences on Artist
Marsden Hartley
Marsden Hartley
Years Worked: 1906 - 1943
Influenced by Artist

Artists

Arthur B. DaviesArthur B. Davies
Charles DemuthCharles Demuth
John MarinJohn Marin
Arnold Rönnebeck

Personal Contacts

Mabel Dodge LuhanMabel Dodge Luhan
Paul RosenbergPaul Rosenberg
Alfred StieglitzAlfred Stieglitz
William Carlos WilliamsWilliam Carlos Williams
Hudson Walker

Movements

DadaDada
Modernism and Modern ArtModernism and Modern Art
RealismRealism

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Content compiled and written by Jessica DiPalma

Edited and published by The Art Story Contributors

" Artist Overview and Analysis". [Internet]. . TheArtStory.org
Content compiled and written by Jessica DiPalma
Edited and published by The Art Story Contributors
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