Boat with Sun, Deer Isle, Maine is an outstanding example of John Marin's highly original contribution to modern American painting. With the artist's creative vision, the landscape of Maine explodes with intense color and remarkable form.
Beginning in 1914, John Marin and his family regularly spent their summers in Maine, first in Small Point, then on Deer Isle, and later in Cape Split. For about ten summers beginning in 1919, the Marins summered in the area of Stonington on Deer Isle where the artist produced some of his most original and inspired work. Reflecting on the area, Marin described it as "this place of mine, a village, where clustered about you can see if you look dream houses of a purity of whiteness, of a loveliness of proportion, of a sparingness of sensitive detail, rising up out of the greenest of grass sward" (as quoted in R.E. Fine, John Marin, Washington, DC, 1990, p. 180)
The vast ocean at the edge of the coastal town captured Marin's attention, and many of his works reveal its attraction for the artist. Boats in particular were fascinating to Marin. "During the seasons Marin spent in Stonington he began the boat paintings that became one hallmark of his work. Even before the turn of the century, shipping had captured his interest...The artist enjoyed reading sea adventures throughout his life, and he undoubtedly liked the fact that his name, in French, meant seaman. His love of sailing was reported by Ernest Haskell who, with Marin, 'sailed to Ragged Island and Wallace Head-- all over Casco Bay we sailed. He believed in sailing... And now I see sailing, in his pictures of the sea--the very essence of sailing.'" (John Marin, p. 185)
It has been suggested that the boat in Marin's work had an even more personal meaning for the artist. "Jerome Mellquist, commenting on The Little Boat (perhaps the work by that title now in the Metropolitan Museum of Art, R.14.69), suggested: 'Marin is that little [boat] out there; the rapt worshipper of nature; the gleeful one; the man whose feeling beats more wildly every time he looks at land or sea or sky.' One senses that the boat, especially the boat in stormy waters, functioned for Marin as a metaphor for inner travels, for existence." (John Marin, p. 189)
In 1921, almost as if specifically describing Boat with Sun, Deer Isle, Maine, "Paul Rosenberg, writing with characteristic zeal, recognized a new energy in Marin's work: 'Fused with the French delicacy, there has come to exist a granite American crudeness. So strong and rough has Marin's water-colour become, that the elders complain he has transcended the natural limits of the medium. What he has done, indeed, is to liberate the medium, and express through the liberation the nature-poetry he feels. . . . Nature is felt in her endlessness, her indifference, her vast melancholy fecundity. The conscious and the unconscious mind interplay in this expression. Flashes of red lightning, pure ecstatic invasions of the conscious tear through the subdued and reticent American colour of the wash. The deep blues and browns become strangely mystic. The realism turns very suddenly, inexplicably, into unrealistic, ghostly expressionistic art. Little complexes of colour, gold and red and yellow, little nucleii of painted jewels, appear poured out of the unknown regions of the mind. One is reminded again and again of a Blake, a Blake unliterary and master of his prophetic medium. Nature has given her lover back again to himself, and permitted him to develop in the strength of his spirit.'" (John Marin, p. 191)