Friday, June 18, 2010


Just finished reading Marsden Hartley The Biography Of An American Artist by Townsend Ludington, and I wish I could recommend it, but I really can’t. I found it too dry and dead. I mean Hartley lived during the most interesting and exciting times of the Twentieth Century but the author to my mind doesn’t capture the spirit or color of the period. I also would have liked to know more about his sexuality, and I don’t mean in a prurient way. I don’t know if the author is gay or not, but he pretty much sidesteps Hartley’s homosexuality. Of course it’s there but it almost as if Hartley wasn’t gay. He also misses opportunities to discuss his friendships with other gay artists, Demuth is mentioned but then he’s dead and gone. To be fair he does touch on some of Hartley’s unpleasant traits including his dance with Nazism and his anti-Semitism “He did not agree with the nazis policies toward the Jews, but he thought they had some right to want to purify their nation and he half sympathized with their charge that the Jews had over stepped their privileges. “If (the Nazis) must have them out of politics, out of art, out of banking, that is their business.” He also wanted very much to meet Hitler. Needless to say this information about one of my favorite artists is troubling. The author also leaves a dull and flat impression of the spirit of the times in New York, Paris and Berlin, I would have liked more details and color, and also Ludington’s portraits of all the famous and exciting artists and writers of the period that Hartley knew are gray. There was a lot of pain and suffering in his life, poverty, neglect, hostility to the art world, gee sounds familiar, and the time that he destroyed over 100 of his paintings because he could not afford the storage fee was heartbreaking, and he died just when his extraordinary work was getting the attention and rewards that they so deserved.


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