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[Maine Coast, Rocks, Sea, and Sailboat]

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.

Many areas along the Maine coast contain broad expanses of blocky rock ledge. One of these, is Schoodic Point (now part of Acadia National Park)—one of Hartley's favorite places to watch and sketch the sea and possibly the site of this drawing (MHMC 1955.1.89). Its composition is divided in thirds. The foreground ledge of granite blocks with another off to the left partly submerged as the ocean churns over the hard surfaces and then extends left, becoming in frothy by means of short, curved strokes. In the middle ground, which is a wide expanse of sea, we sense wave motion via a combination of very fine, hard lines stroked diagonally at varying densities and quite soft shaded (or rubbed) areas that give dimension and volume to the open water. Finally, the flat horizon line, with a sailboat to define distance, separates the sea from the sky, its few clouds taking shape by broad, curvy marks from the pencil's edge.

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