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Musicologist Reference – Prokofieff

ca. mid-1930s
Marsden Hartley, American, (Lewiston, ME, January 4, 1877 - September 2, 1943, Ellsworth, ME)

Inscribed at l.r. is the title: "Musicologist reference – Prokofieff". Hartley used an alternative spelling of Sergei Prokofiev's name—just as some usage spells Rachmaniov as "Rachmanoff"—but he also misspells it, crossing out one of the "fs". A poem with the same title as this drawing appears in his collection "City Vignettes," written in the mid-1930s and published in The Collected Poems of Marsden Hartley (ed. Gail R. Scott. Santa Rosa CA: Black Sparrow Press, 1987, p. 115, 332n). A copy of the original typescript can be found with the literary papers in the Hartley Memorial collection housed in the Special Collections in the Muskie Institute. The poem correlates with the drawing—capturing the sad but severe demeanor of the woman in lines like, "she has the terrible look of keeping / some secret tryst without weeping" and, "She is dressed in the very best of / very black." The lines, "She has given all her soul to the love / of three oranges" refers to Sergei Prokofiev's satirical opera, The Love for Three Oranges (Op.33), which premiered in Chicago in 1921. Classical music was among Hartley's other loves. Musical themes appear in his painting and poems, both in terms of metaphor, symbolism, titles of works (e.g., a group of paintings in 1912-12 titled or sub-titled Musical Theme Bach Preludes, a collection of poems called Provencal Preludes, ca. 1925-29; a poem and painting titled O Bitter Madrigal) , and direct references to composers and performers like Vladimir Horowitz, Jascha Heifetz, Mozart, Beethoven, various Vaudeville stars, and opera singer, Lillian Nordica (The MHMC includes two photographs owned by Hartley of the Lilian Nordica Homestead in Maine).

The angularity of the entire composition, typical of Hartley’s late figure drawings, as well as the relationship of this drawing to Hartley's poem, confirm a date much later than formerly designated (Berlin, 1922-23).

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