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 John Marin  (1870 - 1953)

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Lived/Active: New York/Maine/New Jersey / France      Known for: painting-modernist landscape-coastal, etching

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John Marin
from Auction House Records.
Sailboat, Brooklyn Bridge, New York Skyline
© 2001 Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York
This biography from the Archives of AskART:
A prominent New York architect who became an artist, John Marin earned a reputation for abstract watercolor paintings influenced by Cubism* and Futurism*.  He was one of the Taos, New Mexico Colony painters in the late 1920s, and his work is credited as an important precedent to Abstract Expressionism*.

Marin was born in Rutherford, New Jersey, and grew up in nearby Weehawken.  He attended the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts*, studying with Thomas Anshutz, then studied at the Art Students League* in New York, and from 1905 to 1909, studied in Europe.  In Paris, he associated with the Fauvist circle.

He had a long association in New York City with Alfred Stieglitz, who exhibited his work, and in the 1930s, he developed interest in the human figure and marine subjects and oil painting.

In Taos, which he visited in 1929 and 1930, he was the guest of Mabel Dodge Luhan, and was unique because he was using a drybrush* watercolor technique and vividly demonstrated how watercolor could capture the New Mexico landscape.  Because he was so respected nationally, his use of watercolor in New Mexico set a precedent for others painting there.


Source:
Matthew Baigell, Dictionary of American Art
Michael David Zellman, 300 Years of American Art

* For more in-depth information about these terms and others, see AskART.com Glossary http://www.askart.com/AskART/lists/Art_Definition.aspx




This biography from the Archives of AskART:
John Marin was born in Rutherford, New Jersey in 1870. His father was a public accountant; his mother died only nine days after his birth. He was taken to his maternal grandparents with whom he lived in Weehawken, New Jersey. His grandparents, with their son and two daughters were the only parents Marin was to know; it has been suggested that his father seems to have ignored him. As a child of seven or eight Marin began to sketch and when he was a teenager he had completed his earliest watercolors. His education in the schools of New Jersey was interspersed with summers of hunting, fishing and sketching; he traveled in the Catskills, and as far away as Wisconsin and Minnesota. But formal training was almost incidental to his development as an artist.

He is to America what Paul Cezanne was to France - an innovator who helped to oppose the influence of the narrative painters, the illustrators who were more interested in subject than form, in surface than substance. Marin brought to his work a combination of values which, at the turn of the century, was unique in this country: an aliveness of touch, colors that have both sparkle and solidity, and forms that are vibrant with an energy characteristic of our age.

Marin established himself as a practicing architect. In the early 1890s, he worked for four architects and by 1893 had designed six houses in Union Hill, New Jersey. At the age of twenty-eight, he decided to become a professional artist and studied briefly at the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts in Philadelphia and the Art Students League in New York City.

As a watercolorist he had no equal. He used this fluid, spontaneous medium to abstract from objects - skyscrapers, boats, mountains and seas - a simplified anatomy of color and form and to define the pulsation of stresses and movements in the relationship of objects. It was a great disappointment, all his life, that his oil paintings did not achieve the popularity that his watercolors did.

From 1905 to 1910 he worked in Europe, where he was influenced by Whistler's watercolors. It was Alfred Stieglitz, Marin's lifetime friend and dealer, whose firm faith in his genius made his position in the art world possible. He developed a distinctive style that he used most characteristically in powerful watercolors of the Maine coast. During the 1920s he provided the dominant force in the movement away from naturalistic representation towards an art of expressive semi-abstraction.

He married Marie Jane Hughes after he returned to New York. They had one son, who grew up to run his father's considerable affairs. Marin continued to work at the same steady fast pace as long as he lived. Since 1908 he had produced 1700 paintings, an average of forty a year. He had made the frames for them as well. At the age of seventy-nine, he began to taper off from the days when he painted one hundred watercolors in a summer. He died in 1953.

Written and submitted by Jean Ershler Schatz, artist and researcher from Laguna Woods, California.

Sources include:
Metropolitan Museum of Art Miniatures: Masterpieces in the Philadelphia Museum of Art
Oxford Dictionary of Art, Oxford University Press, 1988, edited by Jan Chilvers, Harold Osborne and Dennis Farr, consultant
From the internet, AskART.com
Robert Hughes in Time magazine, February 22, 1971

Biography from The Owings Gallery:
“You will never see water colours like these of John Marin again so take a good look and remember, and if your are a painter, don’t try to cope with the style because the style in this case is several times the man, love of life, love of work, love of nature and the love of the enormous privilege…” -Marsden Hartley

It is said that John Marin, from earliest boyhood, had the knack of shadowing a certain sense of motion on paper. However, it was not until he was almost thirty years old that he received any formal art training. After high school, he attended the Stevens Institute of Technology for a year, then drifted from job to job. It was decided by his father that he should become an architect, so he spent six frustrating years trying to gain stature in that profession.

Marin was already twenty-nine years old when his aunts, who raised him, admitted that he might as well go to art school since he seemed to be a failure at everything else. At the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, where Marin studied for two years, neither the teaching ideas of Thomas Anschutz nor those of William Merritt Chase had a decisive influence on his work. Five years in Paris also seemed to leave a light mark on the direction his style was taking, according to Marin himself.

During his years in Paris, the artist turned out a good number of etchings and watercolors of the city’s landmarks and picturesque views. In these early etchings, the Gothic cathedral looms as a handsome, solid structure depicted by an artist who paid close attention to almost invisible detail. When he turned to the more pliant medium of watercolor where his brushwork was more limpid, Marin achieved Whistlerian effects of mood and atmosphere.

His work attracted a small market when it was sent to New York, but the turning point in his career was the day in Paris when he met Edward Steichen. When the noted photographer got back to New York in 1909, he handed a few of Marin’s exciting watercolors to his good friend Alfred Stieglitz. The legendary Stieglitz gallery at 291 Fifth Avenue was always responsive to advanced forays in art. Stieglitz represented such artists as Charles Demuth, Georgia O’Keeffe, Arthur Dove and Marsden Hartley, all of who became Marin’s friends.

From 1909 on, Stieglitz exhibited Marin’s work regularly and became the artist’s friend and patron. The relationship proved crucial to Marin’s career, because with the burden of selling paintings removed by Stieglitz’s financial support, the artist was free to develop into his mature style.

Marin left Paris in 1911 and came to New York. In New York, his art moved from Impressionist rendering to more modernist transformations of his chosen subjects. His descriptive, vigorous style and expressionistic spontaneity came about through his excited perception of New York City. Though the urban landscape prompted some of John Marin’s most memorable work, he turned to it infrequently – as infrequently as he painted in oil.

For just as his preferred medium was watercolor on paper, the predominant subject matter of his art was nature.Having spent the better part of five years in Europe, once Marin returned home, he never went abroad again, both literally and figuratively in terms of his artistic style. Indeed, the notion of an American artist exploring American themes, intending to establish a distinctively American mode of paintings, was exceedingly important to him. Jerome Mellquist, reviewing Marin’s 1936 Museum of Modern Art retrospective, wrote that the artist’s ability “to capture nature at its points of greatest activity… this scene of nature and movement, this swiftness and violence and continual change is the peculiar American thing in Marin, the thing which he has and no other European or Oriental painter has ever had, and which reveals how perfectly he expresses the American psyche…”

John I.H. Baur wrote of Marin, “There is no close echo in his work of the defined European movements. He stands as a pioneer of a distinctly American modernism.”An independent spirit, Marin developed his own unique pictorial language. Renaissance perspective was too restricted for Marin and Cubism too scientific. He evolved a crystalline shorthand technique which he used with great certainty to set down the spirit of the moment and with a surging vitality that seemed to deny its poetic derivation. He did not seek to convey geological or meteorological data; rather he summed up a state of primordial drama. His passages of sharp edges and linear violence created a feeling of scale and movement that identified the scene but reconstructed it in a new pictorial syntax.

"Despite Marin’s seemingly arbitrary distortion and spontaneously applied color, there was a rational pattern which always seemed to culminate in an equilibrium of forces both physical and psychological.” (Van Deren Coke)

In 1929 and 1930 Marin accepted an invitation from Mabel Dodge Luhan to spend the summer at her ranch near Taos. He had been urged to try his hand on this parched and rugged landscape by two of his friends in the Stieglitz circle, Georgia O’Keeffe and Paul Strand. In all he spent seven months there, and created almost one hundred watercolors, painting outdoors or from his car when the weather was too hot. The Southwest enlarged his response to nature and provided him with his third great theme – after the city (New York) and the sea (the Maine coat). The sheer scale of the country impressed and sometimes daunted him. In response Marin painted some of his most freely expressionist watercolors of the plains and canyons and mountains of the Southwest.

Marin went on to master his incomparable style in oils as well as in other media, though it is as one of America’s foremost watercolorists that he is particularly celebrated.

His work was shown in the much-chronicled Armory Show of 1913 and, before the next decade was out, Henry McBride ranked him with the “great”. In May 1951, ARTnews referred to Marin as the “greatest living American painter”. Wide recognition of Marin, during his lifetime and posthumously, is evidenced by the many exhibitions of his work – over 350 exhibitions during his lifetime.

He was honored, in 1924 by a one-man exhibition at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, and in 1936 by a major retrospective at the Museum of Modern Art. In 1942 he was elected to membership by the National Institute of Arts and Letters; the following year, he was accorded the same honor by the American Academy of Arts and Letters. A memorial exhibition in 1955 traveled to several major American museums, and the Los Angeles County Museum of Art organized a traveling exhibition in 1970-71.

Marin is currently represented in virtually every major museum in the United States. Well up to the time of his death at the age of eighty-three, John Marin kept himself busy at his easel, turning out work as spirited and buoyant as it was at the start.

Biography from Mark Borghi Fine Art Inc - New York:
John Marin was born in Rutherford, New Jersey. His father was a public accountant; his mother died only nine days after his birth. He was taken to his maternal grandparents with whom he lived in Weehawken, NJ, directly across the Hudson River from New York. His grandparents, along with their son and two daughters, were the only real parents Marin was to know. A biographer suggests his father seems to have ignored him.

As a child of seven or eight Marin began to sketch, and when he was a teenager he had completed his earliest watercolors, using a technique of transparent washes, rather than delineating form. Thus, his work resembled American Impressionism, though he was never labeled an Impressionist.

Marin's education in the schools of New Jersey was interspersed with summers of hunting, fishing and sketching. He made careful sketches of the landscape in the Catskills, as had an earlier school of artists. He also worked around White Lake in New York, and made sketching trips as far afield as Wisconsin and Minnesota.

Biographer Sheldon Reich writes: His careerlong dedication to intimate qualities in nature has its source in these earlier works. In much later paintings, Milton Brown identified these elements and Marin's concern with "the phenomena of weather, the fortuitous and poetic aspects of an ever-changing nature.

Throughout the nineteenth century the artists of this country who were most self-reliant in terms of training tended to produce the strongest and most enduring work. John Marin brings this national characteristic into the twentieth century. . . . Formal training was almost incidental to his development as an artist.

In 1893, Marin established himself as a practicing architect, a career he pursued for the next eleven years, until, at the age of twenty-eight, he decided to become a professional artist. He studied briefly at both the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts in Philadelphia and the Art Students League in New York. By the time he was thirty-five, Marin had developed a small, intimate type of watercolor sketching done from nature, Impressionistic in general atmospheric effects and comparable with the aesthetic of late Impressionism.

Following the practice of most American artists at that time, he sailed for Paris with the intention of continuing his education and making himself known as an artist. He drifted about Europe for the next five years, developing his strength as an artist slowly but steadily. Later he described that period as a time when he ". . . played some billiards, incidentally knocked out some batches of etchings."

Marin's biographers frequently cite his admiration for the artist James McNeill Whistler, who, at the end of the 19th century personally symbolized to American art students the international-cosmopolitan aspirations of the day. (Whistler died in 1903, but his influence was an important factor in the development of Marin's painting and etching skills.)

An important event in Marin's life while in Paris was his meeting with American photographer Alfred Stieglitz. This meeting led to his association with The Photo Secession Gallery at 291 Fifth Avenue, known as "291," where Marin was granted his first important exhibition in the U.S. in February, 1910. This unique artist-dealer relationship lasted until Stieglitz's death in 1946.

By placing all financial affairs in the hands of his friend, Marin enjoyed absolute freedom to pursue his work. In the next several years Marin painted some of the most important works of his career, inspired by New York City. His subjects were the architectural monuments of the city and the basic structural forces seemingly pent up within them. However, by 1914 he had moved in a new direction, away from the city and toward nature, the inspiration of his youth. This was also the year he "discovered Maine."

Almost without exception throughout the rest of his life, Marin made numerous paintings of the state of Maine on annual summer visits Though he made a few nonobjective watercolors, Marin could never accept the basic concept of abstraction; but in the 1920s, his style embraced some Cubist elements. His work in this period is described as "classical," involving "a sweep and thrust which brings in the total force of the land, sea, and sky, giving it a firmly structured spatial order."

Curry says, ". . . Marin had reached the full capacity of the medium [watercolor] . . . He had proved beyond any doubt that it need not be a second rate means of expression. . . . Throughout most of his career, Marin worked in both oil and watercolor, fully emerging in the 1930s as a marine painter. He intended to create ". . . paint wave a breaking on paint shore."

He had no patience with any kind of art that had its origin in the mind without reference to the outside world. Marin's recognition as an eminent American artist was evident in New York and beyond.

In 1947 he was honored by a second traveling retrospective outside the confines of the Stieglitz galleries, as well as three publications devoted exclusively to his work. In 1948, Look Magazine announced that Marin had been the choice of artists and musuem directors as the pre-eminent artist now working in the United States; and in 1949, Marin was given a retrospective exhibition of oils, watercolors and etchings at the de Young Museum in San Francisco. During that time it was revealed that the bulk of the late Alfred Stieglitz collection was being presented to The Metropolitan Museum, and Marin found himself enshrined in that "bastion of respectability" with over sixty paintings.

In addition, the remainder of the Stieglitz Collection--including numerous Marins--was granted to the Philadelphia Museum, the National Gallery of Art, the Art Institute of Chicago, and Fisk University in Nashville. In 1950, Yale University conferred upon Marin the honorary degree of Doctor of Fine Arts, as did the University of Maine. That same year, he was hailed by his native state of New Jersey with an exhibition of paintings and prints at the State Museum in Trenton.

A special scroll inscribed by the governor described Marin as a "recognized master in his own time." It was noted at the time that such official recognition for a living artist was rare. John Marin died 2 October 1953, one month and twenty-one days short of his eighty-third birthday.

Biography from MB Fine Art, LLC:
John Marin was born in Rutherford, New Jersey. His father was a public accountant; his mother died only nine days after his birth. He was taken to his maternal grandparents with whom he lived in Weehawken, NJ, directly across the Hudson River from New York. His grandparents, along with their son and two daughters, were the only real parents Marin was to know. A biographer suggests his father seems to have ignored him.

As a child of seven or eight Marin began to sketch, and when he was a teenager he had completed his earliest watercolors, using a technique of transparent washes, rather than delineating form. Thus, his work resembled American Impressionism, though he was never labeled an Impressionist.

Marin's education in the schools of New Jersey was interspersed with summers of hunting, fishing and sketching. He made careful sketches of the landscape in the Catskills, as had an earlier school of artists. He also worked around White Lake in New York, and made sketching trips as far afield as Wisconsin and Minnesota.

Biographer Sheldon Reich writes: His careerlong dedication to intimate qualities in nature has its source in these earlier works. In much later paintings, Milton Brown identified these elements and Marin's concern with "the phenomena of weather, the fortuitous and poetic aspects of an ever-changing nature.

Throughout the nineteenth century the artists of this country who were most self-reliant in terms of training tended to produce the strongest and most enduring work. John Marin brings this national characteristic into the twentieth century. . . . Formal training was almost incidental to his development as an artist.

In 1893, Marin established himself as a practicing architect, a career he pursued for the next eleven years, until, at the age of twenty-eight, he decided to become a professional artist. He studied briefly at both the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts in Philadelphia and the Art Students League in New York. By the time he was thirty-five, Marin had developed a small, intimate type of watercolor sketching done from nature, Impressionistic in general atmospheric effects and comparable with the aesthetic of late Impressionism.

Following the practice of most American artists at that time, he sailed for Paris with the intention of continuing his education and making himself known as an artist. He drifted about Europe for the next five years, developing his strength as an artist slowly but steadily. Later he described that period as a time when he ". . . played some billiards, incidentally knocked out some batches of etchings."

Marin's biographers frequently cite his admiration for the artist James McNeill Whistler, who, at the end of the 19th century personally symbolized to American art students the international-cosmopolitan aspirations of the day. (Whistler died in 1903, but his influence was an important factor in the development of Marin's painting and etching skills.)

An important event in Marin's life while in Paris was his meeting with American photographer Alfred Stieglitz. This meeting led to his association with The Photo Secession Gallery at 291 Fifth Avenue, known as "291," where Marin was granted his first important exhibition in the U.S. in February, 1910. This unique artist-dealer relationship lasted until Stieglitz's death in 1946.

By placing all financial affairs in the hands of his friend, Marin enjoyed absolute freedom to pursue his work. In the next several years Marin painted some of the most important works of his career, inspired by New York City. His subjects were the architectural monuments of the city and the basic structural forces seemingly pent up within them. However, by 1914 he had moved in a new direction, away from the city and toward nature, the inspiration of his youth. This was also the year he "discovered Maine."

Almost without exception throughout the rest of his life, Marin made numerous paintings of the state of Maine on annual summer visits Though he made a few nonobjective watercolors, Marin could never accept the basic concept of abstraction; but in the 1920s, his style embraced some Cubist elements. His work in this period is described as "classical," involving "a sweep and thrust which brings in the total force of the land, sea, and sky, giving it a firmly structured spatial order."

Curry says, ". . . Marin had reached the full capacity of the medium [watercolor] . . . He had proved beyond any doubt that it need not be a second rate means of expression. . . . Throughout most of his career, Marin worked in both oil and watercolor, fully emerging in the 1930s as a marine painter. He intended to create ". . . paint wave a breaking on paint shore."

He had no patience with any kind of art that had its origin in the mind without reference to the outside world. Marin's recognition as an eminent American artist was evident in New York and beyond.

In 1947 he was honored by a second traveling retrospective outside the confines of the Stieglitz galleries, as well as three publications devoted exclusively to his work. In 1948, Look Magazine announced that Marin had been the choice of artists and musuem directors as the pre-eminent artist now working in the United States; and in 1949, Marin was given a retrospective exhibition of oils, watercolors and etchings at the de Young Museum in San Francisco. During that time it was revealed that the bulk of the late Alfred Stieglitz collection was being presented to The Metropolitan Museum, and Marin found himself enshrined in that "bastion of respectability" with over sixty paintings.

In addition, the remainder of the Stieglitz Collection--including numerous Marins--was granted to the Philadelphia Museum, the National Gallery of Art, the Art Institute of Chicago, and Fisk University in Nashville. In 1950, Yale University conferred upon Marin the honorary degree of Doctor of Fine Arts, as did the University of Maine. That same year, he was hailed by his native state of New Jersey with an exhibition of paintings and prints at the State Museum in Trenton.

A special scroll inscribed by the governor described Marin as a "recognized master in his own time." It was noted at the time that such official recognition for a living artist was rare. John Marin died 2 October 1953, one month and twenty-one days short of his eighty-third birthday.

Biography from Hollis Taggart Galleries (Artists, P-R):

John Marin (1870-1953)

Born in Rutherford, New Jersey, in 1870, John Marin spent much of his youth in Weehawken. He attended the Stevens Institute of Technology for a year and worked for several architectural firms before deciding to do freelance work, designing houses in New Jersey. This early experience as an architect arguably contributed to the important role played by architectural themes in his paintings and watercolors. 

From 1899 to 1901, Marin attended the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts in Philadelphia, studying with Thomas Pollock Anshutz and William Merritt Chase for two years. He completed his artistic training at the Art Students League in New York and on a six-year European sojourn beginning in 1905. During his extended stay in Europe, Marin briefly attended the atelier of Auguste-Joseph Delecluse in Paris and made sketching trips to Holland, Belgium, England, and Italy. In 1910, he visited the Austrian Tyrol, where he painted a series of watercolors that are distinguished by a silver-bluish tonality and large, soft, indistinct forms. In these works, he achieved a remarkable translucence, which became one of his distinguishing trademarks. 

In 1909, Marin held his first one-man exhibition at Alfred Stieglitz’s gallery, “291.” The photographer Edward Steichen, whom Marin had met through the painter Arthur B. Carles, introduced him to Stieglitz. Marin’s and Stieglitz’s association would last nearly forty years; Stieglitz’s support, in both philosophical and financial respects, was essential to Marin’s prolific output and popularity. Later, Marin would show his works at Stieglitz’s three exhibition spaces – the Little Galleries of the Photo-Secession, the Intimate Gallery, and An American Place.

After returning permanently to the United States in 1911, Marin continued to portray both city and country views. Drawing on his recent exposure to modern European artistic trends, including Cézanne’s oeuvre, Fauvism, and Cubism, he altered his style, making it bolder and more aggressive. His depictions of skyscrapers with their arrow-like configurations emphasize the impact of the dynamic forces of the city. In 1912, he painted views of the Brooklyn Bridge, making the structural elements quiver as though defying the laws of gravity. These brilliant works suggest a sense of the dizzying excitement about the structures that were being erected and recall works by the Orphic Cubist painter Robert Delaunay.

At age forty-four, Marin married Marie Hughes of New York, whom he had met in Paris. From 1914 on, they spent almost every summer on the coast of Maine. In 1915, Marin bought sight-unseen an island at Small Point with $1200, which he had earned from sales at Stieglitz’s gallery. He named it “Marin Island” but never lived there because it had no fresh water. The seascapes and landscapes he painted on the island are characterized by a state of flux – moving clouds, circulation of air, open sea, and craggy rocks. In the 1920s, his work began to reveal the tenets of Cubism, and he developed a Cubist-inspired device, the frame-within-a-frame or “enclosure form,” to demarcate the boundaries of his images.

During the 1930s, Marin began to work primarily in oils and arrived at a markedly more fluid approach. He learned to isolate movement into large planes of color and often employed a more somber palette in his seascapes. He continued to retain direct references to nature, but emphasized the sensation that nature evoked rather than offering a literal translation. Throughout the 1930s and 1940s, Marin continued to demonstrate his inventive nature in the lyrical oils and watercolors he produced, works that seem to be in a constant state of evolution.

By his mid-sixties, Marin had achieved great acclaim as an American landscape painter. In 1936, he had a retrospective show at the Museum of Modern Art and, in 1947, his work traveled to Washington, DC, Minneapolis and Boston. He is represented in the collections of more than fifty American museums, including  the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Museum of Modern Art, the Whitney Museum of American Art, and the Brooklyn Museum, all in New York; the Cleveland Museum of Art; the Art Institute of Chicago; the National Gallery of Art, Washington, DC; and the Fogg Art Museum, Cambridge, Massachusetts.


Biography from Hollis Taggart Galleries (Artists, E-O):
Born in Rutherford, New Jersey, in 1870, John Marin spent much of his youth in Weehawken. He attended the Stevens Institute of Technology for a year and worked for several architectural firms before deciding to do freelance work, designing houses in New Jersey. This early experience as an architect arguably contributed to the important role played by architectural themes in his paintings and watercolors.

From 1899 to 1901, Marin attended the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts in Philadelphia, studying with Thomas Pollock Anshutz and William Merritt Chase for two years. He completed his artistic training at the Art Students League in New York and on a six-year European sojourn beginning in 1905. During his extended stay in Europe, Marin briefly attended the atelier of Auguste J. Delecluse in Paris and made sketching trips to Holland, Belgium, England, and Italy. In 1910, he visited the Austrian Tyrol, where he painted a series of watercolors that are distinguished by a silver-bluish tonality and large, soft, indistinct forms. In these works, he achieved a remarkable translucence, which became one of his distinguishing trademarks.

In 1909, Marin held his first one-man exhibition at Alfred Stieglitz’s gallery, “291.” The photographer Edward Steichen, whom Marin had met through the painter Arthur B. Carles, introduced him to Stieglitz. Marin’s and Stieglitz’s association would last nearly forty years; Stieglitz’s support, in both philosophical and financial respects, was essential to Marin’s prolific output and popularity. Later, Marin would show his works at Stieglitz’s three exhibition spaces – the Little Galleries of the Photo-Secession, the Intimate Gallery, and An American Place.

After returning permanently to the United States in 1911, Marin continued to portray both city and country views. Drawing on his recent exposure to modern European artistic trends, including Cézanne’s oeuvre, Fauvism, and Cubism, he altered his style, making it bolder and more aggressive. His depictions of skyscrapers with their arrow-like configurations emphasize the impact of the dynamic forces of the city. In 1912, he painted views of the Brooklyn Bridge, making the structural elements quiver as though defying the laws of gravity. These brilliant works suggest a sense of the dizzying excitement about the structures that were being erected and recall works by the Orphic Cubist painter Robert Delaunay.

At age forty-four, Marin married Marie Hughes of New York, whom he had met in Paris. From 1914 on, they spent almost every summer on the coast of Maine. In 1915, Marin bought sight-unseen an island at Small Point with $1200, which he had earned from sales at Stieglitz’s gallery. He named it “Marin Island” but never lived there because it had no fresh water. The seascapes and landscapes he painted on the island are characterized by a state of flux – moving clouds, circulation of air, open sea, and craggy rocks. In the 1920s, his work began to reveal the tenets of Cubism, and he developed a Cubist-inspired device, the frame-within-a-frame or “enclosure form,” to demarcate the boundaries of his images.

During the 1930s, Marin began to work primarily in oils and arrived at a markedly more fluid approach. He learned to isolate movement into large planes of color and often employed a more somber palette in his seascapes. He continued to retain direct references to nature, but emphasized the sensation that nature evoked rather than offering a literal translation. Throughout the 1930s and 1940s, Marin continued to demonstrate his inventive nature in the lyrical oils and watercolors he produced, works that seem to be in a constant state of evolution.

By his mid-sixties, Marin had achieved great acclaim as an American landscape painter. In 1936, he had a retrospective show at the Museum of Modern Art and, in 1947, his work traveled to Washington, DC, Minneapolis and Boston. He is represented in the collections of more than fifty American museums, including the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Museum of Modern Art, the Whitney Museum of American Art, and the Brooklyn Museum, all in New York; the Cleveland Museum of Art; the Art Institute of Chicago; the National Gallery of Art, Washington, DC; and the Fogg Art Museum, Cambridge, Massachusetts.

© Copyright 2007 Hollis Taggart Galleries

Biography from Altermann Galleries and Auctioneers, IV:
John Marin
Born: Rutherford, New Jersey 1870 (or 1872)
Died: Cape Split, Maine 1953

Very important international watercolorist

Marin was educated at Hoboken Academy and Stevens Prep. He was sketching at 14 and painting sensitive watercolors at 15. His family influences him to attend Stevens Institue to become an architect. He opened an office in 1893 but abandoned it to sketch and paint watercolors on his own. Marin studied at Philadelphia Academy of Fine Arts with Thomas Anshutz from 1899 to 1901 but missed classes to sketch the city. From 1901 to 1903, he attended the Art Students League in New York City under DuMond, then worked as a free-lance architect while trying to resolve his light pattern technique by painting 100 9x12” canvases in oils of the North River, the Palisades, and Manhattan. In 1905, his family sent him to Europe where he studied etching. When he returned in 1909, he had his first one-man exhibition at Stieglitz’s “291” gallery. From that point he maintained his long span as the dean of American watercolor, the master of capturing the fluidity of motion and of the simplification of nature into semiabstract compositions.

Marin visited Taos the summers of 1929 and 1930 when he was almost 60. The first exhibition of his Western watercolors was an event in 1936 at the Museum of Modern Art. His friends even identified his sites by means of a map that showed his haunts. Actually, he had painted about 100 New Mexico watercolors without any effect on him that would compare to the impact of the West on Hartley. Marin’s Taos landscapes did not capture him as did Maine. His Indians dancing were technically adept but not penetrating. More important to New Mexico art than Marin’s watercolors, however, was his influence. Along with Dasburg, he made modernism acceptable in this part of the Victorian West.

Resource: SAMUELS’ Encyclopedia of ARTISTS of THE AMERICAN WEST,
Peggy and Harold Samuels, 1985, Castle Publishing


Biography from The Caldwell Gallery - I:
John Marin was one of America's greatest early Modernists. He studied architecture at the Stevens Institute and worked in that field until 1893 to pursue an art career, studying at the Art Students League and the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Art with Thomas Anshutz and William Merritt Chase. While traveling through Europe in 1908, Marin met Alfred Stieglitz, who became his chief promoter and dealer. His first show was held in 1909. While Marin was abroad he focused heavily on etching, retuning to America with 103 works.

However, at this point he chose to shift his focus to watercolor, using themes of NYC life in Modernist form and structure to illustrate to dynamics of the city in constant flux. His skyscapes showed a Cubist/Futurist manner with sight lines, contrasting weights and rapid brushwork.

Marin's work always sold well with Stieglitz as his dealer and he received quite high prices in the 1920s. Marin was honored with a retrospective at the MoMA in 1936. He was active until his death at age 83.

Biography from Marin-Price Galleries:
Provenance:
Kennedy Galleries, Inc., New York

Exhibited:
The Berkshire Museum, Pittsfield, Massachusetts, "John Marin's Berkshire Landscapes", June 9 -August 9, 1985.

Literature:
Sheldon Reich, "JOHN MARIN PART II; A stylist Analyses, and Catalogue Raisonne" 1970, number 18, 15 page 457 (illustrated)

Biography from Spanierman Gallery:
A major figure in early twentieth-century modernism, John Marin captured the colliding energies of the American urban scene and the vibrant contrasts of natural elements in the coastal landscape of Maine and other countryside locales.  As one of the premier watercolorists of his era, Marin developed a light, spontaneous style ideally suited to conveying the freshness and flux of city and country experience -- his watercolors are often considered to match in strength those created by Winslow Homer in previous century.  At the same time, Marin’s sensitivity to mass, form, color, and line and their dynamic interchanges provided a precedent for the Abstract Expressionist movement of the late 1950s.

Marin was born in Rutherford, New Jersey, to a family of European descent. After studying mechanical drawing and mathematics for half a year at the Stevens Institute of Technology in New York, Marin worked as a draftsman for several architects. It was not until he was almost thirty years old that he began to study art. He enrolled at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts in Philadelphia from 1899 to 1901, and at the Art Students League in New York from 1901 to 1903, where his teachers were William Merritt Chase and Frank Vincent Dumond. While Marin was attending the League, the radical ideas of Arthur Wesley Dow were being disseminated and had an impact on the direction Marin would soon take in his art.

Marin left for Europe in 1905. The next five years, which he spent abroad, were of tremendous importance to his career. He became a significant figure in the expatriate community in Paris, frequenting the Dôme, a café that served as a meeting place for artists and writers. While in Europe, Marin visited the Louvre and the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam and, despite his claims that he had been indifferent to the Paris art world, he undoubtedly became aware of the art of Paul Cézanne and Henri Matisse. The works Marin created in Europe most strongly reflect the influence of James McNeill Whistler, especially the pastels he rendered in Venice.

In the summer of 1909, Marin met Alfred Stieglitz in Paris. In February of the next year, Marin’s work was shown along with that of Alfred Maurer at Stieglitz’s gallery, 291. After returning to America in the following year, Marin became one of the most consistent members of Stieglitz’s inner circle, showing at all three of his galleries -- 291, The Intimate Gallery, and An American Place. After 1910, Marin developed the routine that he would follow for the rest of his life, creating paintings, drawings, and prints in New York City and surrounding areas during the winter, and in the summer, traveling to the country, where he focused on the particular characteristics of the regions that he visited. He worked mainly in watercolor until 1928, when he began also to use oil.

Marin never became purely abstract. He formulated a unique style melding influences of the art of the French Fauves, Cézanne, Matisse, and the French Cubists with a personal style of luminescent colors, agile brushwork, and a simultaneously delicate and strong handling. In city views, he used broken lines, a light touch, fluid color, and rhythmic compositions to convey what he described as the “great forces at work.” He expressed the warring of the great and the small through relationships between masses. As he said, he sought to express the “pull forces” of the modern urban scene. Often portraying the new tall buildings of New York seen in the midst of radiating, fragmented forms of city and sky, he conveyed the hectic forces and explosive growth and promise of America. His images of the Woolworth building, in particular, suggest the incredible defiance of gravity achieved by the modern skyscraper. Using plunging sight lines and Cubist multi-perspectives, in his views of buildings, bridges, and other urban architectural forms, Marin created vivid pictorial equivalents of the American city of the early twentieth century.

In 1914, Marin discovered the other subject that would dominate his art. As had Homer and many other American artists, he was compelled by the natural and untouched beauty of the Maine coast. The works he created over the course of many Maine summers express dynamic relations of ground, trees, water, clouds, and sky. Conveying the tension between the fluid forms of nature and the structures of art, he imposed order on his landscapes and reinforced his picture planes, while conveying the character of his sites. New Mexico was another locale that drew Marin’s attention. On a number of sojourns, he captured the stark grandeur of the countryside around Taos.

Marin received widespread acclaim during his life and posthumously. The Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Museum of Modern Art had solo shows of his art in 1924 and 1936. The Institute of Contemporary Art in Boston organized a traveling retrospective in 1947. The Los Angeles County Museum of Art held a major Marin show in 1970-1971, and in 1990, a large retrospective was held at the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C.

Marin’s work may be found in important private and public collections across the country including the National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C., the Museum of Modern Art, New York; the Art Institute of Chicago; the Philadelphia Museum of Art; the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York; Harvard University Art Museums, Cambridge, Massachusetts; the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Smithsonian Institution, Washington, D.C.; Colby College Museum of Art, Waterville, Maine; Terra Museum of American Art, Chicago; the Munson-Williams-Proctor Institute, Utica, New York; the Phillips Collection, Washington, D.C.; the Wichita Art Museum, Kansas; the Detroit Institute of Art; the Albright-Knox Art Gallery, Buffalo, New York; the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; and the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston.

LNP

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John Marin is also mentioned in these AskART essays:
New York Armory Show of 1913
Fauves/Fauvism
San Francisco Panama-Pacific Exhibition 1915
Taos Pre 1940
Modernism



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