Marsden Hartley (1877-1943)
Marsden Hartley (1877-1943)
Marsden Hartley (1877-1943)
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Marsden Hartley (1877-1943)
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Modern Icons: Property from an Important Private Collection

Flowers from a Lonely Child - for Mary of the Volcanoes

Flowers from a Lonely Child - for Mary of the Volcanoes
signed and dated 'Marsden Hartley./1935-6.' and inscribed with title (on the reverse)
oil on canvasboard
20 x 16 in. (50.8 x 40.6 cm.)
Painted in 1935-36.
The artist.
Estate of the above.
Paul Rosenberg & Co., New York.
Alfredo Valente Gallery, New York, 1960.
Meyer and Vivian Potamkin, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, 1960.
Private collection, by descent.
Sotheby's, New York, 21 May 2003, lot 113, sold by the above.
Acquired by the present owner from the above.
Archives of American Art, Elizabeth McCausland Files.
E.M. Benson, "Exhibition Reviews: Marsden Hartley Returns to an American Place," The American Magazine of Art, vol. 29, May 1936 (as Flowers of a Lonely Child for His Lady of the Volcanoes).
A.H. Sayer, "Sea Gulls, Roses, Icons, A Letter Never Sent," Art News, March 28, 1936 (as Flowers of a Lonely Child for His Lady of the Volcanoes).
New York, An American Place, Marsden Hartley: First Exhibition in Four Years All Pictures Shown for the First Time Publicly, March 22-April 14, 1936, no. 11 (as Flowers of a Lonely Child for His Lady of the Volcanoes).
New York, Alfredo Valente Gallery, Marsden Hartley, September 28-November 5, 1960, n.p., no. 9.
Post lot text
This painting is included in The Marsden Hartley Legacy Project: Complete Paintings and Works on Paper, with Bates College Museum of Art, Lewiston, Maine. We are grateful for Gail R. Scott’s assistance with the cataloguing of this work.

Brought to you by

Tylee Abbott
Tylee Abbott Vice President, Head of American Art

Lot Essay

In the summer of 1935, Marsden Hartley traveled to the island nation of Bermuda to help address various health concerns including chronic bronchitis and depression. The restful summer and sunlight of the island allowed the artist to sufficiently recover, and soon after he traveled north that fall to Nova Scotia. Following an equally spiritual rejuvenation in Nova Scotia where he stayed with the Mason family, in December Hartley traveled to New York for financial reasons. Back in the United States, Hartley received a stipend from the Works Progress Administration to produce paintings which resulted in his Bermuda Fantasy series. With brilliant color and bustling forms, Flowers from a Lonely Child - for Mary of the Volcanoes embodies the dazzling qualities associated with the series. The latter portion of the work’s title, likely a reference to the Virgin Mary, further speaks to the spiritual awakening Hartley experienced during his 1935 travels.

Barbara Haskell explains, "What Hartley did produce for the WPA were paintings devoted to the flower and fish motifs begun earlier in Bermuda. Because flowers had been scarce there, Hartley had invented his own floral motifs. He described the resultant brightly colored fantasies as imaginative portrayals of things 'seen or sensed in Bermuda’…The most striking feature of these Bermuda Fantasies is their color range, more brilliant now than any of Hartley's work since his 1908-9 Neo-Impressionist landscapes…Hartley abandoned the restrained earth tones of recent years for a palette of high-keyed pinks, blues and reds…he applied dabs of brilliant color over the entire canvas surface to create a speckled, ornamental effect which visually unties the disparate, otherwise unrelated forms of the composition. Noting that his paintings were ‘all gay - no more dark pictures now,’ Hartley attributed their jubilance to ‘a Spiritual rebirth, etc.' These paintings were the first pictorial manifestation of his new ebullient attitude towards life which had developed during his six week stay with the Masons [in Nova Scotia]. At the same time, they reflect his continuing commitment to avoid profound subject matter. 'For with flowers,' Hartley explained, 'one escapes into simplicity without mood'." (as quoted in Marsden Hartley, New York, 1980, pp. 99).

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