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Artist Biography

 Born in Lewiston, Maine, Marsden Hartley was the youngest of nine children and would grow up to become one of America’s earliest and finest Modernist artists. His extensive formal training began with a scholarship to the Cleveland Institute of Art in the early 1890’s and in 1898 he moved to New York City to study with the great William Merritt Chase. Hartley then attended the National Academy of Design and it was during these years that he became very attracted to the writings of Walt Whitman, Henry David Thoreau, and Ralph Waldo Emerson – three of America’s most celebrated writers who had profound influences on many of our most renowned painters.

Moving to an abandoned farm in Lovell, Maine in 1908, Hartley’s first truly mature works created there caught the attention of the prominent photographer/dealer, Alfred Stieglitz, who would give Hartley his first of three one-man shows in 1908 at the famed 291 Gallery in New York City. Stieglitz, like Hartley, was a deep thinker as well as being deeply immersed in what was occurring in the art world during this pivotal time and ultimately introduced Hartley to the work of the European Modernists. Picasso, Matisse and especially Cezanne, as can clearly be seen with Pomegranates, 1927, would make a huge impact on Hartley and would fuel his thirst to learn and see more and more.

Marsden Hartley’s impressive, expansive art education both in and outside of the classroom cannot be emphasized enough nor can the timing in the art historic timeline. In 1912 he would travel to Paris and become ensconced in the incredible, avant-garde circle of Gertrude Stein which also included the likes of Ernest Hemingway, Isadora Duncan and George Gershwin. Berlin soon beckoned and Hartley went there in 1913 and became friendly with the Russian artist/teacher, Wassily Kandinsky, who is said to have painted the first truly abstract work of art. So strong were Hartley’s early works from Berlin that they were represented in the historic Armory Show of 1913.

His wanderlust kept him traveling and living abroad from 1921 until 1930 when he returned to the United States where he then traveled and painted across the country from California to New Mexico to Massachusetts and finally settled back in Maine in 1937. Hartley had then decided he wanted to portray Maine’s distinctly American characteristics and did so beautifully until his death in 1943.

Marsden Hartley’s works are represented in important private collections as well as public institutions which include: Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, NY; The Museum of Modern Art, The Whitney Museum, Art Institute of Chicago, Chicago, IL; Philadelphia Museum of Fine Art, Los Angeles County Museum of Art, Los Angeles, CA. Brooklyn Museum, Brooklyn, NY; The Hirshhorn Museum & Sculpture Garden, The National Museum of American Art, The Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, The Fogg Art Museum, The Fine Arts Museum of San Francisco, The Columbus Museum of Art and many, many more.