Artists & Designers

Marsden Hartley, (1877-1943)

Born in Lewiston, Maine, in 1877, Marsden Hartley's interest in painting began early in his life. Hartley moved to Cleveland in 1893 and there studied painting with John Semon and Cullen Yates and attended classes at the Cleveland School of Art. On a stipend from a local patron he went to New York in 1899 to study first at the William Merritt Chase School and then at the National Academy of Design, where he remained for four years. Working at first in a style of academic realism, he began to show signs of the influence of Impressionism and then the mystical landscape style of Albert Pinkham Ryder. He had his first one-man show at Stieglitz's "291" in 1909 and through "291" came to know the art of Paul Cezanne and Pablo Picasso, whose ideas on structure he readily absorbed.

In 1912 Hartley traveled to Europe and quickly became involved in the avant-garde movements centering around Gertrude Stein in Paris and Franz Marc and Wassily Kandinsky in Munich. His painting passed through Cubist and Fauve phases and then under the influence of Cubism and German Expressionism into intuitive symbolic abstractions which attracted considerable attention in Europe and New York. After returning to the States late in 1915, Hartley settled in New York but began to make regular summer expeditions to Maine, New Mexico, and California before returning to Europe in 1921. By 1920 his style was becoming increasingly representational and took on a rustic strength that alludes somewhat to folk art but was used by Hartley as a vehicle for expressing his deep, romantic attachment to the landscape and people of rural America. Returning to the U.S. in 1930, Hartley traveled extensively while working mostly in Maine. Later in life he devoted more and more time to writing poetry and essays on modern art. He died in Ellsworth, Maine, in 1943 where he had lived intermittently for several years.

Adapted from

  • Steven A. Nash, Dallas Collects American Paintings: Colonial to Early Modern (exhibition catalogue, Dallas, TX: Dallas Museum of Fine Arts, 1982), 119.

  • DMA unpublished material

Web Resources

  • YouTube
    Watch this lecture from the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston titled "Painting from the Past: Marsden Hartley, Arthur Dove, and Charles Sheeler."