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Hartley Entire Collection

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[Maine Coast, Rocks, Island, Rough Sea, Sailboat]

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.

This drawing (MHMC 1955.1.90) depicts one of Hartley's favorite seascape compositional motifs: a ledge of granite boulders on the left (or, variously, in other versions, on the right) from top to bottom of the paper, against which rough waves crash. It could be a study for any number of finished oil paintings of storm waves, such as Rocky Coast, ca. 1937-38 [last known at Skinner Auction, 2003; will try to locate buyer/owner]. In contrast to the more placid seas of the previous two MHMC drawings, this is rough, storm driven water with the dramatic effect intensified by its crashing action against the wall of granite. In keeping with that drama, the draftmanship is bolder, darker, heavier. Curiously, however, the pile of rocks and the upward rushing water seem equally solid, equally fluid, as if their identity and interaction are indistinguishably linked both conceptually and physically.

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