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[Maine Coast, Rocks and Sea]

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.

Th angle of the rock ledge at right in this drawing (MHMC 1955.1.91) has a disruptive, abstract perspective, creating an unbalanced, unsettling effect. Our focus is confined from bottom to top of the composition to water and rocks; there is no distance beyond the horizon line. The rocks are darker, more emphatic in their solidity—an effect possibly the result of the medium itself, since it is likely that here Hartley used lithographic crayon over graphite pencil marks. As in the previous sketch (MHMC 1955.1.90), the angled peaks of the waves and rock edges, especially as the scene recedes back, are almost indistinguishable.

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