Marsden Hartley belonged to the circle of avant-garde artists surrounding Alfred Stieglitz - which included Georgia O'Keeffe, John Marin, and Charles Demuth. Of all these modernists, Hartley was the only one who made his way to Germany, finding inspiration in Vassily Kandinsky and Franz Marc. He brought to American art a vision like no other. Hartley was an artist who went through spectacular changes in style and subject matter. His first works were transcendental post-Impressionist mountain views; his last ones included forceful and sensual studies of young athletes. This seeming inconsistency reflected a nature deeply divided between love and repression: he sublimated his feelings in mountain landscapes and expressed them directly in the late figure paintings. His finest works are those that eulogize the great lost loves of his life, such as Karl von Freyburg, a German officer killed at the beginning of World War One. Considered to be his most important contribution to modern art, Hartley's abstract funerary portraits of Freyburg combine personal symbolism, eroticized objects, state power, and private tragedy to powerful effect - a fusion of parts no other Cubist attempted. The rest of Hartley's career can be seen as a journey to relocate this vision in more representational terms, a point he reached by the end of his life. By this time, in the midst of another world war, Hartley had achieved recognition as a unique American master, and his sexuality, his subjects, and his style all have continued to have something important to say to later artists.
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Maine and New York 190611
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