Archive for November 27th, 2009

I’ve been writing lately about browsing the newspapers of the early part of the last century. That era has always held a particular attraction for me because of the energy of the wide sweeping change that was taking place across all aspects of our world.  The transition from a horse-drawn world to the automobile.  The beginning of man in flight.  The beginning of true mass communication in the form of the recording and radio and film, a move away from live entertainment.  Everything was speeded up, changing faster and faster.  It was the birth of the Modern.

In art it was no different.  It was a transitional period away from the traditional, from the studied, academy-trained artist to the more expressive, individualized artist.  Modernism.

One of my favorites from that time is Marsden Hartley, a Maine-born painter.  I’ve always been attracted to a series of collage-like paintings he executed that are painted on a black ground, such as the one above, Portrait of a German Officer.  I love the way he puts his forms and colors together in these pieces, giving them a real visual impact.  His landscapes, such as Storm Clouds shown here, have that organic feel that I really like and look for in my own work.  By that, I mean that his shapes have a natural, human-like roll and feel.  I can’t really describe this well.

But it’s there.

There are stories behind many of his collage-like pieces. for instance, Portrait of a German Officer, was an homage to a German officer of WW I, the cousin of a close friend with which Hartley had been enamored ( he was gay) before being killed in the war. Knowing this gives the piece new meaning, added depth.

I know this is not a great lesson on Hartley or his work but there is more info out there, if you’re interested enough to look. He’s not the best known artist of his time but his influence continues…

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