Marsden Hartley had a lifelong personal and aesthetic engagement with Maine, where he was born in 1877 and where he died at age sixty-six. As an important member of the artistic circle promoted by Alfred Stieglitz, Hartley began his career by painting the mountains of western Maine. He subsequently led a peripatetic life, traveling throughout Europe and North America and only occasionally visiting his native state. By midlife, however, his itinerant existence had taken an emotional toll, and he confided to Stieglitz that he wanted “so earnestly a ‘place’ to be.” Finally returning to the state in his later years, he transformed his identity from urbane sophisticate to “the painter from Maine.” But while Maine has played a clear and defining role in Hartley’s art, not until now has this relationship been studied with the breadth and richness it warrants.
Marsden Hartley’s Maine is the first in-depth discussion of Hartley’s complex and shifting relationship to his native state. Illustrated with works from throughout the painter’s career, it provides a nuanced understanding of Hartley’s artistic range, from the exhilarating Post-Impressionist landscapes of his early years to the late, roughly rendered paintings of Maine and its people. The absorbing essays examine Hartley’s view of Maine as a place of light and darkness whose spirit imbued his art, which encompassed buoyant coastal views, mournful mountain vistas, and portraits of Mainers. An illustrated chronology provides an overview of Hartley’s life, juxtaposing major personal incidents with concurrent events in Maine’s history. For Hartley, who was strongly influenced by such artists as Paul Cézanne, Winslow Homer, and Albert Pinkham Ryder, Maine was an enduring source of inspiration, one powerfully intertwined with his past, his cultural milieu, and his desire to create a regional expression of American modernism.