Marsden Hartley

Originally photographed by Alfredo Valente. Image is courtesy of the Alfredo Valente papers, 1941-1978, in the Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution.
Name
Marsden Hartley
Also Known as
Edmund Hartley
Born
Lewiston, Maine 1877
Died
Ellsworth, Maine 1943
Active in
  • Aix-en-Provence, France
  • New York, New York
  • Santa Fe, New Mexico
  • Massachusetts
Nationalities
U.S. States
Linked Open Data
Linked Open Data URI
Artist Biography

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)

Luce Artist Biography

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)

Works by This Artist

1932
oil on paperboard mounted on particleboard
1910
oil on fiberboard
1932-1933
oil on composition board
1923
lithograph on paper
1928-1929
oil on wood panel
1908
crayon on paper mounted on paperboard
1933
lithograph on paper