John Marin (1870-1953)
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John Marin (1870-1953)

My-Hell Raising Sea

John Marin (1870-1953)
My-Hell Raising Sea
signed and dated 'Marin 41' (lower right)--inscribed with title (on the reverse)
oil on canvas
25 x 30 in. (63.5 x 76.2 cm.)
Painted in 1941.
The Downtown Gallery, New York.
Mr. and Mrs. David Levy, New York, acquired from the above, 1954.
The Adele R. Levy Fund, Inc., New York, acquired from the above, 1961.
Mr. and Mrs. Phillip M. Stern, Washington, D.C., acquired from the above, by 1962.
Peter H. Davidson and Co., Inc., New York, acquired from the above, 1981.
Acquired by the late owner from the above, 1982.
American Art Research Council, no. 235.
Archives of American Art, Downtown Gallery Papers, roll ND 14, frame 617.
S. Reich, John Marin: A Stylistic Analysis and Catalogue Raisonné, vol. II, Tucson, Arizona, 1970, p. 717, no. 41.28.
A. Skolnick, ed., The Paintings of Maine, New York, 1991, pp. 86-87, 126, illustrated.
C.P. Potholm, Maine: An Annotated Bibliography, New York, 2011, p. 123.
New York, An American Place, John Marin, Oils and Watercolors, 1941, December 9, 1941-January 27, 1942, no. 3 (as Sea Raising More Hell) or no. 4 (as Sea Raising Hell).
Boston, Massachusetts, Museum of Fine Arts; Washington, D.C., The Phillips Memorial Gallery; San Francisco, California, San Francisco Museum of Modern Art; Los Angeles, California, Art Galleries of the University of California; Cleveland, Ohio, Cleveland Museum of Art; Minneapolis, Minnesota, Minneapolis Institute of Arts; Athens, Georgia, University of Georgia Museum of Art; New York, Whitney Museum of American Art, John Marin Memorial Exhibition, March 1, 1955-July 29, 1956, no. 12.
London, Arts Council Gallery, John Marin: Paintings, Water-colours, Drawings and Etchings, 1956.
New York, The Museum of Modern Art, The Mrs. Adele R. Levy Collection/A Memorial Exhibition, June 9-July 6, 1961, pp. 11, 31, illustrated.
Washington, D.C., The Corcoran Gallery of Art; Manchester, New Hampshire, Currier Gallery of Art, John Marin in Retrospect: An Exhibition of His Oils and Watercolors, March 2-June 24, 1962, pp. 23-24, no. 15, illustrated.
St. Louis, Missouri, St. Louis Art Museum; Honolulu, Hawaii, Honolulu Academy of Arts; Boston, Massachusetts, Museum of Fine Arts, The Ebsworth Collection: American Modernism 1911-1947, November 20, 1987-June 5, 1988, pp. 13-14, 31, 130-31, 211, no. 43, illustrated.
New York, Washburn Gallery, Albert Pinkham Ryder: The Descendants, November 7-December 2, 1989.
Washington, D.C., National Gallery of Art; Seattle, Washington, Seattle Art Museum, Twentieth-Century American Art: The Ebsworth Collection, March 5-November 12, 2000, pp. 174-76, 291, no. 43, illustrated.
Washington, D.C., National Gallery of Art, Modern Art and America: Alfred Stieglitz and his New York Galleries, January 28-April 22, 2001, pp. 350-51, 534, no. 127, illustrated.
Salem, Massachusetts, Peabody Essex Museum, Painting Summer in New England, April 22-September 4, 2006, pp. 36, 43, no. 23, illustrated
Portland, Maine, Portland Museum of Art; Fort Worth, Texas, Amon Carter Museum of American Art; Andover, Massachusetts, Phillips Academy, Addison Gallery of American Art, John Marin: Modernism at Midcentury, June 23, 2011-April 1, 2012, no. 13, illustrated (as My Hell Rising).
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Lot Essay

In 1948, renowned modern art critic Clement Greenberg declared, “If it is not beyond doubt that [John] Marin is the greatest living American painter, he certainly has to be taken into account when we ask who is” (Art and Culture: Critical Essays, Boston, 1961, p. 181). That February, Look magazine surveyed 68 curators, critics and museum directors to select the ten best painters in America; John Marin was again declared “Artist No. 1.” Painted during this decade of critical acclaim, My-Hell Raising Sea demonstrates the exquisite balance between elements of abstraction and realism that earned Marin distinction as one of the most venerated American artists of the twentieth century and influenced the next generation of Abstract Expressionists.

Beginning in the summer of 1914, Marin escaped the bustle of New York City every summer to spend the warmer months painting the rocky shoreline of Maine. While his primary output was in the medium of watercolor, in the late 1920s the artist began to explore the possibilities of capturing the tumultuous Atlantic Ocean in oil paint. Through the next decade, as Klaus Kertess writes, “Marin would unite the medium of oil with the subject of the ocean to create deeply moving medleys of paint. The rhythmically charged flatness and openness, the willed surrender to paint’s liquidity, and the entrancement with the workings of nature so crucial to Marin become totally compatible and congruent with the movements of the ocean. Its incalculable repertoire of flux, flow, and reflectiveness moving into and out of flatness would bring Marin into full mastery of his newly favored medium…In oil, Marin immersed himself not in its ambiances but in the nature of the ocean itself” (K. Kertess, Marin in Oil, exh. cat., Parrish Art Museum, Southampton, 1987, p. 46).

In My-Hell Raising Sea, as suggested by the title, Marin particularly emphasizes the unpredictability and unruliness of the ocean’s nature. Kertess explains, “Marin’s Maine is not a hospitable bather’s resort… The Maine coast invited drama more than dalliance” (K. Kertess, ibid, p. 47) Indeed, in the present work from 1941, Marin utilizes forceful, expressive brushwork to create the impression of set after set of strong waves crashing along the dark rocks of the shoreline. Areas of impasto contrast with sgraffito lines where the artist has seemed to inscribe into the paint surface with the pointed end of his brush. With this amalgam of thick and thin layers of dark and light hues, Marin recreates in his unique style the energy and effervescence of the sea. Yet, while the waves and coast are irregular and threatening, the horizon line and sky in My-Hell Raising Sea appear distinctly even and calm. Perhaps this juxtaposition reflects the positive restorative energy that Marin derived from the Maine coast, even during its most forceful moments. As he once wrote to his dealer Alfred Stieglitz during a summer in Maine, “There’s nothing like ‘Old Mother Earth’ to get a fellow so that he can ‘Raise Hell’ once again” (J. Marin, letter to Alfred Stieglitz, August 22, 1920).

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