• Christies auction house James Christie logo

    Sale 2058

    Important American Paintings, Drawings and Sculpture

    4 December 2008, New York, Rockefeller Plaza

  • Lot 114

    Marsden Hartley (1877-1943)

    View from a Window

    Price Realised  


    Marsden Hartley (1877-1943)
    View from a Window
    oil on canvasboard
    24 x 18 in. (61 x 45.7 cm.)

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    An itinerant traveler and restless soul, Marsden Hartley continually sought and encountered new subjects and stylistic influences, creating a body of work that is characterized by an incessant stylistic evolution. Throughout this relentless progression, Hartley continually returned to the subject of still life and indeed, it is the most persistent genres in the artist's enormously varied career. This genre would have provided comfort to Hartley as it simultaneously provided him a method of interpreting his current experiences while also allowing him to revisit past events and symbols.

    From his earliest explorations of the 1910s inspired by Paul Cézanne and Pablo Picasso, to his deliberately primitive later works, Hartley's approach to still life painting progressed in a parallel fashion to his other pictorial interests. He took as subjects a variety of items including flowers, santos, shells, ropes and animals, placing them in various settings and approaching them from an array of perspectives. One of the most enduring compositions in his oeuvre is the window sill arrangement of which View from a Window is representative.

    Hartley first experimented with window sill still lifes while traveling in Bermuda with fellow artist Charles Demuth during the winter of 1916 to 1917. These richly colored works, which are compositionally similar to View from a Window, demonstrate the influence of Henri Matisse's Fauvist window sill paintings of the early 1900s. Hartley must have found this composition compelling as he returned to it in the 1930s and 1940s, though the works from this period are instilled with a distinctly different mood.

    Hartley employs a deliberately primitive style in View from a Window, reducing the composition to simplified blocks of color. The curtains and window sill neatly frame the composition and focus the viewer's gaze to the sea and sky beyond. A book titled Adieu au Cheval lays on the window sill, which is void of detail and reduced to a single white plane. The bright pinks, reds and blues of the flowers echo those of the curtains adding unity to the composition, while the deep green of the abstracted trees imbues the painting with vigor. Hartley revisits past themes, incorporating the iconography of horse and star from his German paintings of 1912 to 1915. The surface is dry and brushy as he pays a characteristically strong attention to texture, employing syncopated strokes that add subtle detail and tactility to the work. In its powerful simplicity View from a Window is simultaneously modern and timeless.


    Private collection, Connecticut, circa 1940s.
    By descent to the present owner.