Marsden Hartley’s Maine at The Met Breuer, March 15 – June 18, 2017

“My own education [began] in my native hills, going with me— these hills wherever I went, looking never more wonderful than they did to me in Paris, Berlin, or Provence.” — Marsden Hartley, “On the Subject of Nativeness—A Tribute to Maine,” 1937

“American painter and poet Marsden Hartley (1877–1943) was born and died in Maine, and his personal and aesthetic engagement with the state shaped his art. Hartley embarked on his artistic career in the early 1900s by painting the western Maine mountains, eventually becoming a member of the circle of artists promoted by the gallerist and photographer Alfred Stieglitz. Beginning in 1912, he adopted a peripatetic life, traveling throughout Europe and North America and returning to his native state on short, infrequent trips. While living in Berlin from 1913 to 1915, Hartley produced abstract paintings that placed him at the forefront of the international artistic avant-garde. Eventually his itinerant lifestyle took an emotional toll. At midlife he confided to Stieglitz, “I want so earnestly a ‘place’ to be.” Hartley repatriated to his native state in his later years and, in 1937, began transforming his identity from urbane sophisticate to “the painter from Maine.”

This exhibition examines Maine as place and the place of Maine in Hartley’s art. It illuminates the artist’s wide-ranging representations of the state throughout his career, from early lush, Post-Impressionist mountain landscapes to glass paintings done at the Ogunquit art colony to canvases painted from memory while abroad to late, roughly rendered images of the rugged coastline, magisterial Mount Katahdin, and hardy people. It also includes works from The Met collection by other artists who shaped Hartley’s vision. Maine served as a slate on which Hartley manifested his ideas over time. It was an enduring source of inspiration defined by his personal history, cultural milieu, and desire to create a regional expression of American modernism.” — Introductory Wall Text

Marsden Hartley (American, 1877-1943). Self-Portrait as a Draftsman, 1908. Lithographic crayon on paper, 12 x 9 in. (30.5 x 22.9 cm). Allen Memorial Art Museum, Oberlin, Gift of the Oberlin Class of 1945

Marsden Hartley (American, 1877-1943), The Ice Hole, Maine, 1908-9. Oil on canvas, 34 x 34 in. (86.4 x 86.4 cm). New Orleans Museum of Art, Museum Purchase through the Ella West Freeman

Marsden Hartley (American, 1877-1943). Untitled (Maine Landscape), 1910. Oil on board, 12 1/8 x 12 in. (30.8 x 30.5 cm). Collection of Jan T. and Marica Vilcek, Promised Gift to The Vilcek Foundation

Marsden Hartley (American, 1877-1943). Desertion, 1910. Oil on commercially prepared paperboard (academy board), 14 1⁄4 x 22 1/8 in. (36.2 x 56.2 cm). Colby College Museum of Art, Waterville, Gift of the Alex Katz Foundation

Marsden Hartley (American, 1877-1943). Three Flowers in a Vase, 1917. Oil and metal leaf on glass, 13 1/8 x 7 5/8 in. (33.3 x 19.4 cm). Private collection

Marsden Hartley (American, 1877-1943). Smelt Brook Falls, 1937. Oil on commercially prepared paperboard (academy board), 28 x 22 7/8 in. (71.1 x 58.1 cm). Saint Louis Art Museum, Eliza McMillan Trust

Marsden Hartley (American, 1877-1943). City Point, Vinalhaven, 1937–38. Oil on commercially prepared paperboard (academy board), 181/4 x 243/8 in. (46.4 x 61.9 cm). Colby College Museum of Art, Waterville, Gift of the Alex Katz Foundation

Marsden Hartley (American, 1877-1943). Church at Head Tide, Maine, 1938. Oil on commercially prepared paperboard (academy board), 281/8 x 221/8 (71.4 x 56.2 cm). Colby College Museum of Art, Waterville, Bequest of Adelaide Moise

Marsden Hartley (American, 1877-1943). Knotting Rope, 1939–40. Oil on board, 28 x 22 in. (71.1 x 55.9 cm). Private collection, New York

Marsden Hartley (American, 1877-1943). Lobster Fishermen, 1940–41. Oil on hardboard (masonite), 29 3/4 x 40 7/8 in. (75.6 x 103.8 cm). The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Arthur Hoppock Hearn Fund

Marsden Hartley (American, 1877-1943). Mt. Katahdin (Maine), Autumn #2, 1939–40. Oil on canvas, 30 1⁄4 x 40 1⁄4 in. (76.8 x 102.2 cm). The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Edith and Milton Lowenthal Collection, Bequest of Edith Abrahamson Lowenthal, 1991

Marsden Hartley (American, 1877-1943). The Lighthouse, 1940–41. Oil on masonite-type hardboard, 30 x 40 1/8 in. (76.2 x 101.9 cm). Collection of Pitt and Barbara Hyde

Marsden Hartley (American, 1877-1943). Storm Down Pine Point Way, Old Orchard, Maine, 1941–43. Oil on hardboard (masonite), 22 x 28 in. (55.9 x 71.1 cm). Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art, Bentonville, Arkansas Marsden

Marsden Hartley (American, 1877-1943). Log Jam, Penobscot Bay, 1940–41. Oil on masonite, 30 x 40 7/8 in. (76.2 x 103.8 cm). The Detroit Institute of Arts, Gift of Robert H. Tannahill

Marsden Hartley (American, 1877-1943). The Wave, 1940. Oil on masonite-type hardboard, 30 1⁄4 x 40 7/8 in. (76.8 x 103.8 cm). Worcester Art Museum

Marsden Hartley (American, 1877-1943). Lobster on Black Background, 1940–41. Oil on hardboard (masonite), 22 x 28 in. (55.9 x 71.1 cm) Smithsonian American Art Museum, Washington D.C.

Marsden Hartley (American, 1877-1943). Canuck Yankee Lumberjack at Old Orchard Beach, Maine, 1940–41. Oil on Masonite-type hardboard, 40 1/8 x 30 in. (101.9 x 76.2 cm). Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Smithsonian Institution

Marsden Hartley (American, 1877-1943). Summer, Sea, Window, Red Curtain, 1942. Oil on masonite, 40 1/8 x 30 1/2 in. (101.9 x 77.5 cm). Addison Gallery of American Art, Phillips Academy, Andover, Massachusetts, Museum Purchase

Marsden Hartley’s Maine is co-curated by Randall Griffey, Curator in the Department of Modern and Contemporary Art at The Metropolitan Museum of Art; Elizabeth Finch, Lunder Curator of American Art at the Colby College Museum of Art; and Donna M. Cassidy, Professor of American and New England Studies and Art History at the University of Southern Maine.

Images courtesy The Metropolitan Museum of Art.