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Luce Foundation Center for American Art

Painting: 20th century: (Lobster on Black Background)
Marsden Hartley

Marsden Hartley

(born Lewiston, ME 1877 -- died Ellsworth, ME 1943)

“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

Marsden Hartley grew up in a small mill town in Maine. His mother died when he was eight, and a few years later his father remarried and left him in the care of his sister. From an early age, Hartley was restless and left school to work a variety of odd jobs. He studied art in Cleveland and New York, then traveled back and forth between Europe and America. He struggled to achieve success in America and on his fifty-eighth birthday burned many of his paintings and drawings because he could not afford to store them. Hartley was inspired by the scenery and culture of the different countries he lived in, and his work changed direction several times. He often responded to praise for his exhibitions by exclaiming, “Oh, but just wait and see what I will paint next year!” (Wheeler, “Death Takes Hartley,” Museum of Modern Art, 1944; Kornhauser, Marsden Hartley, 2002)

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