Larger Type
Smaller Type

Search Collections

Marsden Hartley Portrait

Marsden Hartley Portrait

Marsden Hartley

Also Known as: Edmund Hartley

Lewiston, Maine 1877

Ellsworth, Maine 1943

Active in:

  • Aix-en-Provence, France
  • New York, New York
  • Santa Fe, New Mexico
  • Massachusetts

Photo Caption:
Marsden Hartley, Self Portrait, 1908, crayon on paper mounted on paperboard, Smithsonian American Art Museum,Museum purchase through the Robert Tyler Davis Memorial Fund 1985.37.

Photo Caption:
Originally photographed by Alfredo Valente. Image is courtesy of the Alfredo Valente papers, 1941-1978, in the Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution.

Luce Artist Quote

“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.” The artist, quoted in Robertson, Marsden Hartley, 1995, reprinted in Kornhauser, Marsden Hartley, 2002


Painter, printmaker. Born in Lewiston, Maine, Hartley followed his family to Cleveland, Ohio, where he won a scholarship to the Cleveland School of Art. In 1899 he moved to New York, studying first under William Merritt Chase and F. Luis Mora and the next year at the National Academy of Design. With financial assistance from Alfred Stieglitz, Hartley went to Europe in 1912, spending much of his time in Germany, where he met Wassily Kandinsky, Franz Marc, and other members of the Blaue Reiter group.

On the advice of Charles L. Daniel, a gallery owner who had earlier sponsored Paul Burlin's stay in New Mexico, Hartley visited Taos and Santa Fe in 1918 and 1919. He was attracted by the landscape, which he thought "magnificent" and "austere," by the primitive simplicity of local santos, and by Indian dances, which he proclaimed the one truly indigenous art form in America.

In the early 1920s, while living in Berlin, Hartley recalled the New Mexican landscape in a series of paintings far more turbulent and brooding than any he had done on location. The next decade he divided his time between Europe and America, but his last years were spent mostly in his native Maine, painting the rugged coastline and "archaic portraits" of local fishermen.


American Federation of Arts. Marsden Hartley. New York: American Federation of Arts, 1960.

Haskell. Marsden Hartley.

Udall. Modernist Painting in New Mexico, pp. 29-52.

Charles Eldredge, Julie Schimmel, and William H. Truettner Art in New Mexico, 1900–1945: Paths to Taos and Santa Fe (Washington, DC: National Museum of American Art, Smithsonian Institution, 1986)

Additional Biographies

Born in Lewiston, Maine, Hartley embarked on a lifelong search for family after his own dissolved in his youth with the early death of his mother and his father's remarriage. When Hartley was twelve years old, his father and stepmother left the boy with his older sister for four years. He was an introspective and isolated child, and these traits, in addition to his homosexuality, were a source of tension all his life.

Hartley's attachment to the landscape of Maine was an important element of his painting career. Simultaneously attracted and depressed by the scenery, he returned every summer during the years he studied in New York (first with William Merritt Chase and then at the less expensive National Academy of Design) and lived there with his father and stepmother during his twenties and thirties. Hartley's early pictures, aggressively brushed impressionist landscapes painted in North Lovell, reveal his efforts of find his own style.

His first critical success came with an exhibition at Alfred Stieglitz's 291 Gallery in New York in 1909. Subsequent years were spent painting in Europe, New York, New Mexico, New Hampshire, Mexico, Bermuda, and Nova Scotia. At the end of his career, Hartley returned to Maine, whose wild landscape he considered unique and whose people, he believed, "practiced values of directness and trust." His later Maine paintings were to some dregree a means of resolving his artistic and personal struggles. He invested the landscape, particularly Mount Katahdin and the shore, with a spiritual significance informed by his belief in the transcendentalism of Whitman and Emerson. He experienced a degree of success in the early 1940s, when several museums acquired his work.

William H. Truettner and Roger B. Stein, editors, with contributions by Dona Brown, Thomas Andrew Denenberg, Judith K. Maxwell, Stephen Nissenbaum, Bruce Robertson, Roger B. Stein, and William H. Truettner Picturing Old New England: Image and Memory (Washington, D.C.; New Haven, Conn; and London: National Museum of American Art with Yale University Press, 1999)