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Hartley Entire Collection

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[Still Life with Flowers, View Through a Window of Sea, Islands, Sailboat, Cloud]

ca. 1938-1942
Marsden Hartley, American, (Lewiston, ME, January 4, 1877 - September 2, 1943, Ellsworth, ME)

Perhaps stemming from Matisse, Braque, or Derain, Hartley early adopted a still life motif that, over his career, he honed into his own--a still life (usually flowers in a vase, often with other objects: books, fruit, shells, etc.) with a view through a window to a landscape beyond. All told, he did about forty such window view still lifes, and this ink drawing in the MHMC appears to be the only drawing of the motif. Hartley has penned in a frame of the composition much smaller than the size of the paper. A second line on the left side connotes that this is a window; the pitcher, with a decoration around its middle, holds a bouquet of what may be star lilies with a couple of buds in front and leaves on the right. Intersecting the blossoms is a frilly cloud in the sky while below is the sea, a sailboat, and on the horizon, at left and right are islands with trees. The view is a classic Maine scene from anyone of its many finger peninsulas, but in this case, it is probably Penobscot Bay, a large body of coastal waters draining from the mighty Penobscot River around Bucksport and including many of the areas where Hartley spent time between 1938 and 1940: Vinalhaven, the Bagaduce River near Brooksville, and Castine—before he discovered and moved further Down East, to Corea for the last three years of his sojourns in Maine—and where he died. Many of his late seascapes and window-view still lifes are sited somewhere in Penebscot Bay and bear the name in their titles. For Hartley, even more than for the predecessors who used the motif, it is a hybrid genre: existing at the nexus of still life and landscape and providing a fresh take on both that seems quintessentially to express the Maine coast. Two of the oils in the series depict the same rounded earthen pitcher-vase as in this drawing: Autumn Leaves and Peppers, 1942 (private collection) and Summer Clouds and Flowers, 1942 (Brooklyn Museum).

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