Hartley, Marsden (1877 - 1943)

Genre: Non-Fiction, Poetry

Marsden Hartley was one of America's most admired and respected modernist painters. Given the name of Edmund Hartley at birth, he assumed the name Marsden, his stepmother's last name, when he was in his early 20s.

The youngest of nine children, Hartley was born in Lewiston, Maine. When he was eight, his mother died. Since the family had little money, he left school at an early age to work in a shoe factory.

By 1890 he had moved to Cleveland where he rejoined his family who had moved there to seek better employment. Hartley, primarily self-taught, was a student for a short time at the Cleveland Art School. After moving to New York, he studied with William Merritt Chase and at the National Academy of Design and the Art Student League.

Hartley, through his association with several New York artists, met Alfred Stieglitz whose "291 Gallery" became one of the key art institutions of the early 20th century. With Stieglitz's assistance, Hartley traveled, studied, and painted in Paris and Germany from 1912 through 1915. He returned often to France and Germany in the 20s and 30s.

By the mid-30s he determined to return to his New England roots, first in Gloucester, Massachusetts, and then Maine. In fact, Hartley, in a 1937 essay titled, "On the Subject of Nativeness: A Tribute to Maine," declared that he wished to be known as the native painter of Maine. The essay can be found in Gail Scott's On Art by Marsden Hartley (1982). Many of his paintings and drawings from the 30s and 40s focus on the Lovell area, Mount Katahdin, and the coast and fishermen of the Corea area.

The Bates College Museum of Art, located in Lewiston, has a noted collection of Hartley paintings and drawings. The largest Hartley collection - 54 works on paper and 61 paintings - is located at The Weisman Art Museum, University of Minnesota.

In addition to being a gifted artist, Hartley was also a poet and essayist. By 1916, his writing had become an important part of his creative life. Just as Stieglitz encouraged him in his artistic efforts, Gertrude Stein, Hart Crane and Sherwood Anderson encouraged Hartley to write. Like many other writers, he was first published in little magazines such as The Little Review, The Dial, Poetry, Contact, and others.

Hartley died in Ellsworth and his ashes were scattered on the Androscoggin River.

Since 1980, Hartley's work as an artist and poet has gained increased attention from both the art and academic worlds.

Selected Bibliography

  • Adventures in the Arts: Informal Chapters on Painters, Vaudeville, and Poets (1921)
  • Twenty-Five Poems (1923)
  • Androscoggin (1940)
  • Sea Burial (1941)
  • Selected Poems (1945)
  • Eight Poems and One Essay by Marsden Hartley (1976)
  • Cleophas and His Own: A North Atlantic Tragedy (1982)
  • Heart's Gate: Letters Between Marsden Hartley and Horace Traubel, 1906-1915 (1982)
  • On Art (1982)
  • Collected Poems of Marsden Hartley, 1904-1943 (1987)

Selected Resources

  • Marsden Hartley by Barbara Haskell (1980)
  • Marsden Hartley by Gail R. Scott (1988)
  • Marsden Hartley and Nova Scotia ed. by Gerald Ferguson (1987)
  • Marsden Hartley: The Biography of an American Artist by Townsend Ludington (1992)
  • Pinnacles and Pyramids: The Art of Marsden Hartley by Jeanne Hokin (1993)
  • Speaking for Vice: Homosexuality in the Art of Charles DeMuth, Marsden Hartley and the First American Avant-garde by Jonathan Edman Weinberg(1993)
  • Marsden Hartley by Bruce Robertson (1995)
  • Dictated by Life: Marsden Hartley's German Paintings and Robert Indiana's Hartley Elegies by Patricia McDonnell (1995)
  • Marsden Hartley: American Modern by Patricia McDonnell(1997)
  • Somehow a Past: The Autobiography of Marsden Hartley (1996)

Selected Resources