Marsden Hartley's Creative Connection to His Home State of Maine Explored in Unprecedented Exhibition


Marsden Hartley (American, 1877–1943). Canuck Yankee Lumberjack at Old Orchard Beach, Maine (detail), 1940–41.
Oil on Masonite-type hardboard. Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Smithsonian Institution,
Gift of Joseph H. Hirshhorn, 1966. Photo by Cathy Carver

Exhibition Dates:
March 15–June 18, 2017

Exhibition Location:
The Met Breuer, Floor 3

The exhibition Marsden Hartley’s Maine, on view at The Met Breuer from March 15 through June 18, 2017, will showcase the American artist’s lifelong artistic engagement with his home state of Maine. Approximately 90 paintings and drawings will illuminate his extraordinarily expressive range—from Post-Impressionist interpretations of seasonal change in inland Maine in the early 1900s to folk-inspired depictions, beginning in the late 1930s, of the state’s hearty inhabitants, majestic coastline, and great geological icon, Mount Katahdin.

Marsden Hartley’s Maine is organized by The Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Colby College Museum of Art. Following its presentation at The Met, the exhibition will be on view at the Colby College Museum, in Waterville, Maine, from July 8 through November 12, 2017.

The exhibition is made possible by the Henry Luce Foundation, the William Randolph Hearst Foundation, and the Jane and Robert Carroll Fund.

It is organized by The Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Colby College Museum of Art.

Born in Lewiston, Maine, in 1877, Hartley became known for his peripatetic nature, especially his time spent in Paris and Berlin, where he participated in the European avant-garde. Over the course of his career, however, he returned to his home state repeatedly, painted Maine subjects while living abroad, and proclaimed himself the “painter from Maine” in the final chapter of his life. With the artist’s place of origin as its focus, the exhibition will trace the powerful threads of continuity that run through Hartley’s work and underlie many of his greatest contributions to American modernism. To Hartley, Maine was a springboard to imagination and creative inspiration, a locus of memory and longing, a refuge, and a place for communion with previous artists who painted there, especially Winslow Homer, the most famous American artist associated with the state. Hartley died in Ellsworth, Maine, in 1943.

Hartley began his career by painting and exhibiting views of the state’s western hills in a vibrant painterly style, seen in works such as The Silence of High Noon—Midsummer (1907–08), which he debuted in 1909 at his first solo exhibition at Alfred Stieglitz’s art gallery, 291. Hartley worshipped Paul Cézanne above all other modern painters; in emulation of Cézanne’s legendary serial views of Mont Sainte-Victoire in his home of Aix-en-Provence, Hartley adopted Maine’s Mount Katahdin as one of his key subjects beginning in 1939. One entire gallery of the exhibition will be devoted to Hartley’s bold, audacious figure paintings, such as Madawaska—Acadian Light-Heavy (1940) and Canuck Yankee Lumberjack at Old Orchard Beach, Maine (1940–41). The unrefined sensuality of the figures evokes Walt Whitman’s poetry, which the painter also admired.  His depictions of working-class men are typically static, even saint-like in appearance. The Met’s presentation of the exhibition will include select works from the Museum’s collection by other artists who shaped Hartley’s vision, including Cézanne, Japanese printmakers Hiroshige and Hokusai, and American painters Winslow Homer and Albert Pinkham Ryder.

Exhibition Credits and Related Programs

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.

To accompany the exhibition, The Metropolitan Museum of Art will publish a fully illustrated catalogue featuring lead essays by the exhibition’s co-curators with additional contributions by poet and theorist Richard Deming, Senior Lecturer in English and Director of Creative Writing, Yale University, who addresses Hartley’s writings about Maine, and conservators Isabelle Duvernois and Rachel Mustalish, both of The Met, who provide new technical analyses of his art.

A series of related programs is planned in conjunction with the exhibition, including a lecture, exhibition tours, a series of talks, a Teen Studio Workshop, and a Picture This! program for adults who are blind or partially sighted.

The performance Ives & Hartley: Landscapes of Modernism—Sight and Sound Series with Leon Botstein and The Orchestra Now, will take place on Sunday, May 21, 2017, at 2 pm in the Grace Rainey Rogers Auditorium at The Met Fifth Avenue. In this orchestral set—titled "Ives’s Three Places in New England and the Artwork of Marsden Hartley"—Connecticut-born composer Charles Ives sets out to evoke through music the atmosphere and history of three locations in New England. Marsden Hartley, his contemporary, was himself deeply attached to music. The artist returned to Maine in his final years and applied his modernist aesthetic to its landscapes. Tickets start at $30. Details available here.

The exhibition is featured on the Museum's website, as well as on FacebookInstagram, and Twitter via the hashtag #MarsdenHartley.

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