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Hartley Entire Collection

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[Maine Coast, Sea and Rocks]

ca. 1938-1943
Marsden Hartley, American, (Lewiston, ME, January 4, 1877 - September 2, 1943, Ellsworth, ME)

Beginning with his time in Nova Scotia (1935-36), the sea became an increasingly major subject occupying Hartley's attention and imagination, with around forty paintings and works on paper over the next eight years. The five drawings in the MHMC (1955.1.88-1955.1.91 and 1955.1.93) are individually and collectively stellar examples of what he could do with the subject in the graphic medium. Among the artist's belongings from his studio in Corea at the time of his death, are some of the tools he used, including a case containing three Venus American Pencil Company pencils of HB hardness (defined as hard and black) and an A.W. Faber pencil extender with a very thick, round, hard lead—possibly Siberian graphite. Since, for instance, there is no pencil sharpened to a fine point, these are not all of Hartley's tools, but what we do have provides a glimpse into his various draughting techniques and expressive effects.

Also noteworthy is the fact that rocks and waves were of such importance to Hartley that he took many photographs of rock formations and rocks and waves on the coast of Maine, now in the Marsden Hartley Papers, Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library, Yale University, such as

In MHMC 1955.1.88, using only a pencil (or pencils of varying thickness and hardness) and different angles or edges of the graphite point, he captures with expressive verve all aspects of the simple scene: sharp, fine contour lines to outline the main rock formation, made darker by pressure than the interior shading which is rendered by means of soft, diagonal strokes with the edge of the pencil; other staccato, sideways strokes to suggest movement of water between the rocks; and very soft, wide marks (and probably rubbing with thumb or finger) for sky and atmosphere. And always, of course, making judicious use of the white of the paper surface to delineate shape but also to provide the spatial expansion of this sea view.

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