Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Marsden Hartley's Maine at Met Breuer

This is the other great show now on view at the Met Breuer that I think you will really love and if you get a chance hurry up to 77th st. Hartley oh Marsden so troubled yet so wonderful and a big influence on me the minute I saw his paintings as a teenager. This show focuses on his landscapes and seascapes from early in his career to his twilight years but there are also several of his bold homoerotic gorgeous paintings of hunky heroic looking young men who caught more than just his eye.
Also hanging is his famous portrait of Albert Pinkham Ryder who was a big influence on him. Included also are quite a few of Hartley’s drawings and examples of other artist’s works besides Ryder who also played a role in his development as an artist , including Cézanne, Japanese printmakers Utagawa Hiroshige and Katsushika Hokusai, and Winslow Homer.
This is a “trend” of late in Museum scholarship and installation especially at the Met, which I can do without even though I love all the artists pushed into the sidebars of the show. This practice tends to be confusing, didactic and unnecessary. Hartley's paintings are rugged and lush with beautiful strong colors, shapes and outlines and I especially love his clouds and his waves crashing against rocks and coastlines. His trees are also wonderful as is his mountains and lakes. In the 90’s I took a trip to Hartford Connecticut to see a large retro of his at the Wadsworth Atheneum which was breathtaking and breathtaking and I would welcome a full scale retro of his work here in the city but until that happens this lovely array of his landscapes will do. I suggest that you avoid this place on the weekend as it is proving to be very popular especially with the elders of the city, the ladies who lunch and the tourists. See it during the week if possible. I’m including my review of a bio of him that I wrote in 2010 to end out this piece.
”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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