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Hartley Entire Collection

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[Mt. Katahdin]

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

MHMC now has four drawings of Mt. Katahdin; two were part of the original gift by Norma Berger; two are more recent acquisitions. In late October 1939 Hartley made the long-sought trip to paint Mt. Katahdin, staying for eight days at Cobbs Camp on Katahdin Lake, a spot recommended by his friend, Carl Sprinchorn, that offered “by far the most remarkable of the views of Ktaadn." There he mostly spent his time sketching the mountain and "studied deeply every form and contour – and can now do the mountain with sure knowledge.” All told, he executed about thirteen drawings and "got some good starts" on paintings while at Cobbs Camp. He completed the first painting later that fall and winter in rented quarters in Bangor; others emerged gradually over the next three years. Perhaps the most important experience and painting opportunities of his whole career, Hartley described it in letter after letter to close friends, exclaiming in one, “I have achieved the ‘sacred’ pilgrimage to Ktaadn Mt. – exceeding all my expectations so far that I am sort of helpless with words – I feel as if I have seen God for the first time . . ."

It is tempting to think that this tiny sketch might have been the artist's first glimpsed the mountain just after his arrival at Katahdin, done on a tiny piece of paper, before he even had time to unpack his drawing materials. Clearly, his attention immediately focuses on the craggy contour of Baxter Peak, which is more fully delineated in comparison to the sketchiness of the trees and foliage on the edge of the lake. Despite its small size and brief notation, this study encapsulates all the compositional elements which
all the subsequent drawings and paintings would include: the conical profile of Katahdin, with more distant ridges to the right, the shore of the lake, rimmed by Sentinel pines and other trees, clouds in the sky.

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