2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
Marsden Hartley may well be my favorite American painter. I bought this book more than twenty years ago for its reproductions of Hartley's works, about one hundred of which are in splendid full color, with another hundred or so in black and white. I just now got around to reading the text and -- pleasant surprise -- it is much more lucid and less pretentious than the texts of most "art books".
Hartley (b. 1877, d. 1943) was born in Lewiston, Maine, he began his career as a painter in Maine, and he always retained a love of Maine's natural beauty and solitude. But for Hartley as a young man Maine was too provincial, and he spent most of his adult years in such places as New York City, Paris, Berlin, Aix-en-Provence, and Mexico. He was somewhat of a loner and an outsider. For most of his life he was relatively poor, and his formal education, both generally and in art specifically, was modest. His first intellectual lodestar was Ralph Waldo Emerson, and he ended up exemplifying Emerson's philosophy of self-reliance. The second significant intellectual and spiritual guide for Hartley was Walt Whitman. Perhaps reflecting those influences, Hartley did not limit his "artistic expressions" to painting. He also wrote several books of poetry as well as essays and stories. Indeed, typically he spent his mornings writing and then turned to his painting at noon. For the last seven years of his life, Hartley returned to Maine.
Most of Hartley's paintings over the last stage of his career are unmistakably upper New England (or Nova Scotia). They are of rugged mountains and equally rugged people, of stormy seas and assorted sea creatures. They are simple and direct in their representational affect, but they also are weighted with a moral and spiritual dimension that makes them both special and much, much more than "regional" paintings. "[U]nderneath this American backwoods naïveté was the authority of an artist who had used the European modernist tradition to escape provincialism, and then, with astonishing independence, gone on to become * * * `one of the few Americans of his generation to stand whole and free, at once the undeniable citizen of the world and his own imagination.'"
Gail R. Scott, the author, is quite knowledgeable about Hartley and has written extensively about him and his work, both his paintings and his poetry. The book is sprinkled with sidebar quotes from Hartley, all of which are well chosen and aptly placed. (One of them suggests that Hartley might have bridled at the notion that he was an "American" or "New England" painter: "Who would waste time thinking of the Italianism of Leonardo? The creative spirit is at home where that spirit finds breath to draw. It is neither national or international.") The book includes an epilogue on Hartley's painting methods, a detailed chronology of his life, a listing of exhibitions of Hartley's work (through 1987), and a useful bibliography. So, in addition to being an ideal introduction to the artist, MARSDEN HARTLEY would probably also be of considerable value to the serious student.
P.S.: The book I have was published by the Abbeville Press in 1988, and, as is usual of Abbeville Press products in my experience, it is handsomely constructed and designed. I don't know why Amazon's "Product Details" lists the publisher as Hacker Art Books.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on August 7, 2014
Format: HardcoverVerified Purchase
Great survey of his life and the evolution of his artwork with quality pictures along the way.