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American

The Fake News Blizzard was large enough to cause a premature cancellation of the press preview of the forthcoming Marsden Hartley Show at the Met Breuer on 75th and madison, and while we are not as of yet aware of the specifics of the show, prior research done by this writer while in the archives of the Frick Art Reference Library indicate this show has great potential to be one of the finest in a long time.

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1939 12marsden hartley camden hills from bakers islandMarsden Hartley, Camden Hill from Bakers Island, Penobscot Bay, Maine

1941 0hartey 1941lightouseMarsden Hartley, Lighthouse

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PICTURES BY MARSDEN HARTLEY

WHAT do pictures mean anyhow - I have been trying to find out for at least half a lifetime. I have no way of knowing what they do to the spectator, all I know is that a good picture will do a lot, and a bad picture will do a lot more. will insert here the statement of Jean Cocteau: "the privileges of beauty are enormous, it affects even those who have no experience of it". (Les Enfants Terribles)

For myself I have walked toward the good ones, because they have told me that pulling the trick off with something like intelligence is all there is to it to me, for I have no interest in the subject matter of a picture, not the slightest. A picture has but one meaning-is it well done, or isn't it- and if it is, it is sure to be a good picture whether the spectator likes it or not.
And I remember the old gag that we have heard so often, and is perhaps still being used: "I don't know anything about art, I only know what like", and the only answer to that is - do you?

Gertrude Stein says that if you enjoy a thing, you understand it, and plenty of people enjoyed her "SAINTS" play who certainly did not know what it meant, if it meant anything at all.

I have been fed by some very grand pictures, and if were driven to name but one picture that has meant the most to me, would say the incredible picture performance of the NIGHT WATCH by Rembrandt in the Ryks Museum in Amsterdam - having seen it twice, and having been sort of swept off my feet in admiration of it.

If there is such a thing as a relation between painting and music, well then-there is a wealth of brahmsian symphonism in this picture. Who has ever done a greater piece of painting than that picture - frankly speaking no one from any point of view, no one.

But the choice of one would limit rne so I must include some others that have done so much for me - that burning little CRUCIFIXION of Fra Angelico in the Metropolitan Museum in New York, any of the Memling portrait there also, the Strangely exciting SAINT SEBASTIAN of Georges Dumesnil de la Tour, any of the monk pictures by Zurburan, especially the white one in the Hispanic Museum also in New York; the large DANSEUSES AUX BOUQUETS by Degas, O what a picture-several of the Gericaults in the recent show of French painting again at the Metropolitan-a good snow scene of Courbet, a good whispery Corot, a cubistic picture by the very gifted cubist, Roger de la Fresnaye-sometimes a Rubens, often a minor Dutch painter, especially Willem Van Alst, O so distinguished, any ribald Breughel, any Greco, almost any Goya - well, I could live on these alone if had never seen others, and Masaccio and Piero della Francesca must be brought in here - and I have seen almost thousands of others. I would do myself a wrong in leaving out one of the grandest names of all in the modern art world, perhaps the last of the great school of modern painting, Georges Rouault, with his faultless technical knowledge, and his deep and powerful humanism - a great spirit - great artist, great performer.

It is the metier that should interest a painter because, after all it is what he knows about what he is doing that counts, and no amount of slurring or bluff will change that. Pigmental fluidity for me is like the production of tone in the voice - I still hear the incredible mezzo of the late Mme. Marie Delna, the same sort of male range in the voice of Maurice Reynaud the same sort of thing in the voice of the present Ezio Pinza-Serkin at the piano, Piatigorsky at the cello, Bing Crosby singing with such deep-well toned warmth "Home on the Range"-all of this is what moves me to paint, and I see no other excuse for painting pictures than to be "moved" to paint them.

But this is the performer's point of view, and I must not forget to speak of the Coptic embroideries, which for me are classics in great painting, because they must basically have been great painters who made them.

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1941 07ryder01Marsden Hartley, Albert Pinkham Ryder

1941 08Marsden Hartley, Mount Katahdin

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1942Hartley Sea ViewMarsden Hartley New England Sea View, Fish House

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About the Author

Robert Alexander Boyle

Robert Alexander Boyle

 Alexander Boyle is a graduate of Trinity College, Hartford, CT where he majored in History. Prior to graduation he co-authored the seminal book Acid Rain in 1983. Alex has worked for the Metropo...