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The Desert of Friendship

Mark Tobey, American, (Wisconsin, United States, 1890 - 1976, Basel, Switzerland)

The Desert of Friendship was a gift to Hartley from fellow artist Mark Tobey; in fact, they exchanged paintings—Hartley gave Tobey Still Life with Two Pears (now in the Dallas Museum of Art, gift of Mark Tobey). The two artists probably met in New York City and shared an interests and intense discussions about mysticism, art and music. Hartley wrote an essay on Tobey in 1931 based on two exhibitions that included work by him. A passage from that essay speaks to the essence of The Desert of Friendship—its enigmatic shapes and content. "Tobey," writes Hartley, "is a clairvoyant, a revealer of the content of shapes, and he finds a consistent harmonic synthesis for these revelations" ("Mark Tobey," 1931, On Art by Marsden Hartley, ed. Gail R. Scott. New York: Horizon Press, 1982, pp.182-185).
Marsden Hartley,
Still Life with Two Pears, ca. 1929 (Dallas Museum of Art).
Also, Hartley wrote two poems in connection to Tobey, one that rifts off and is titled as the painting, "The Desert of Friendship," the other titled "M.T. – a Relative in Certain Aspects of Metaphysical Divinations" was published in in The Collected Poems of Marsden Hartley (ed. Gail R. Scott. Santa Rosa CA: Black Sparrow Press, 1987, p. 115, 332n). Typescript copies of both are part of Hartley's literary estate in the Marsden Hartley Memorial Collection and archived in the Bates College Special Collections, Muskie Institute.

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