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Marsden Hartley
Yliaster (Paracelsus)
1932
oil
25 1/4 x 28 1/2 in.
Smithsonian American Art Museum, Museum purchase made possible by the Smithsonian Institution Collections Acquisition Program and by George Frederick Watts and Mrs. James Lowndes



Paracelsus was a sixteenth-century Swiss doctor and mystic who believed that everything evolved from a base matter he called "yliaster." Marsden Hartley read Paracelsus's treatises while working in Mexico. Here he visualizes the moment of creation as a jet of fire uniting a massive disc, reminiscent of Aztec sunstones, and an erupting volcano on a desolate Mexican plain.