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Details & Cataloguing

Marsden Hartley
1878-1943
STORM DOWN PINE POINT WAY, OLD ORCHARD BEACH
oil on masonite
22 by 28 in. (55.9 by 71.1 cm)
Painted circa 1941-43.
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Provenance

Estate of the artist
Paul Rosenberg & Co., New York, until 1959
Babcock Galleries, New York
Mr. and Mrs. Clyde B. Hurtt, Kirkwood, Missouri (acquired from the above; sold: Parke-Bernet Galleries, New York, January 29, 1964, lot 92, illustrated)
Babcock Galleries, New York (acquired at the above sale)
Mr. and Mrs. George Perutz, Dallas, Texas, by 1965
Babcock Galleries, New York, by 1980
The Regis Collection, by 1985
Private Collection, New England

Exhibited

Columbia, South Carolina, Columbia Museum of Art, 1963 (on loan)
Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, Department of Fine Arts, Carnegie Institute, The Seashore in Paintings of the 19th and 20th Centuries, October-December 1965
New York, Babcock Galleries, Marsden Hartley 1877-1943: Paintings from 1910 to 1942 and a Bavarian Sketchbook of Silverpoint Drawings, 1933, March 1980, no. 19, p. 9, illustrated p. 20, also illustrated in color on the cover
Chicago, Illinois, The Art Insititute of Chicago; Fort Worth, Texas, Amon Carter Museum of Western Art; Berkeley, California, University Art Museum, University of California, Marsden Hartley, June 1980-January 1981, p. 221, no. 115
New York, Salander O'Reilly Galleries, Marsden Hartley, March-April 1985, no. 42, illustrated in color
Hartford, Connecticut, Wadsworth Atheneum Museum of Art; Washington, D.C., The Phillips Collection, Marsden Hartley, January-September 2003, no. 105, p. 327, illustrated in color p. 284

Literature

Volume of Photographs of Paintings, Pastels and Drawings from the Estate of Marsden Hartley, Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution, Washington, D.C., no. 201, illustrated
Sanford Schwartz, ''A Northern Seascape,'' Art In America, January/February 1976, illustrated in color p. 75
Karen Wilkin, "Art Fierce and Gritty," The Wall Street Journal, February 21, 2003, p. W14

Catalogue Note

Dr. Gail Levin writes: "Born in Lewiston, Maine, in 1877, but soon displaced, Marsden Hartley was destined to be a wanderer and an explorer in his art as in his life. Discovering a vocation as painter and poet, he would gain entrée in New York to the avant-garde coterie that flourished around Alfred Stieglitz, with artists such as John Marin and Arthur Dove. Ever restless he would travel extensively, seeking new subjects in France and Germany, where his avant-garde credentials gained him access to such figures as Gertrude Stein, Vassily Kandinsky, and Franz Marc. His restless searching took him also to Bermuda, Mexico, New Mexico and New Hampshire, Cape Ann in Massachusetts, and Nova Scotia.

"Finally, in a quest for identity as an American,  Hartley returned in 1937 to settle once and for all in his native state. His interests in this period can be compared to those of artists in the American Regionalist movement, such as Thomas Hart Benton or John Steuart Curry. Hartley focused on his New England surroundings in hope of producing art that would be more marketable during the tough years of the Great Depression (see Donna M. Cassidy, “On the Subject of Nativeness: Marsden Hartley and New England Regionalism,” Winterthur Portfolio, 29, no. 4, 1994, pp. 227-45).  His 1936 show at Stieglitz’s gallery, An American Place, had not met with success and his work painted during a sojourn in Bavaria suffered attack by the critics. For some time, Stieglitz had urged him to consider his American roots.

"Responding to this criticism, Hartley composed a catalogue essay for another show at An American Place in 1937 that he called 'On the Subject of Nativeness- a Tribute to Maine.' Claiming a manifesto and program for himself, he wrote: 'This quality of abstract yet definite reality appears in the realm of art in its strongest and most powerful degree in the paintings of Albert Ryder, who has said once and for all--all that will ever be known about that country...' (Marsden Hartley, “On the Subject of Nativeness- a Tribute to Maine,” 1937, reprinted in Gail R. Scott, ed., On Art, New York, 1982, p. 113).  Seeking to realize for himself the 'quality of nativeness,' Hartley, in the six years before his death in 1943, brought his painting to new heights of expressive power.

"The painting Storm Down Pine Point Way, Old Orchard Beach, Maine dates from this period when Hartley at long last came home. The composition is powerfully simple, almost abstract. The great storm cloud, dark with bright edges, dominates the background with an elongated mass. Below the great cloud and dark sky, the tawny-pink beach stretches around and back, until its diminishing line almost completely bisects the canvas, becoming a thin sliver at the horizon line. Highlighting the swerve of shore, a luminous crescent of breakers divides the light sand from the dark blue-green sea, where two more bright lines of breakers, perpendicular to the sky, echo the luminous border of the cloud and form corresponding masses of dark.

"This picture shows Hartley’s ability to move far beyond the literal to a more spiritual grasp of the forces of nature and it suggests new directions that he might have taken had he lived longer. 'I am always obsessed with the idea of the performance of painting itself...,' Hartley wrote in 1941 (Marsden Hartley to Peggy Frank, Museum of Modern Art in Cincinnati, letter of August 28, 1941, from Corea, Maine). 

"Hartley found inspiration for a number of paintings at the site of Old Orchard Beach, located not far from the city of Portland.  An 'old' apple orchard, set on high land above a long sand beach, which became a landmark for sailors, gave the beach its name. The resort had been operating since the 1840s, when the first steam railroad arrived from Boston to Portland. After the Grand Trunk Railroad to Canada opened in 1853, Canadian visitors began to arrive in large numbers since this was the closest beach to Montreal.

"The vast stretch of sand with its restaurants selling shore dinners and its animated crowds appealed to Hartley. From the more isolated Maine island of Vinalhaven, he wrote in July 1938: 'I do so want so much to swing out a little in August & go down to Old Orchard for a few days as it seems too bad not to enjoy so lovely a spectacle as that five mile beach covered in handsome humanity.' He reflected: 'What fun it would be to be going again out into the world & having a fresh look at it--one gets rusty in some ways sitting still even though life is around me at all times' (Marsden Hartley to Adelaide S. Kuntz, letter of July 19-20, 1938).

"The next summer, having moved from Stieglitz to a new dealer, Hudson Walker, Hartley sent Walker and his wife Ione a postcard from Portland on June 21, 1939: 'Too bad you can’t see and swim at our Old Orchard Beach--5 miles of soft sand--and so hard at tide out planes take off from it--at times auto races on it, too.' But he reported to Walker in a letter of August 14, 1939: 'I wanted to go to Old Orchard Beach for a week to study crowds, but....it would have cost $25.' In a letter to a friend on August 30, 1939, Hartley explained: 'I did so want to get down to Old Orchard Beach, but I couldn’t-- & three summers since I have craved a week there-- chiefly because a great many Canadians come down there & they are so gracious always.'

"When Hartley finally got back to this favorite resort with the human company that he had 'craved,' he produced bold figurative works such as Canuck Yankee Lumberjack at Old Orchard Beach (figure 1). The latter in particular seems far from the mood of Storm  Down Pine Point Way, Old Orchard Beach, which is more lyrical, reminding one of words that Hartley had written about the art of Ryder and the sea as it appears in Ryder’s work: 'Ryder is, I think, the special messenger of the sea’s beauty, the confident of its majesties, its hauteurs, its supremacies....he gave us first and last an incomparable sense of pattern and austerity of mood....the succumbing of things in nature to those elements greater than they that wield a fatal power' (Marsden Hartley, “Albert P. Ryder,” Adventure in the Arts, New York, 1921, pp. 39-41).

"Earlier Hartley had painted the sea in works such as Northern Seascape, Off the Banks (figure 2), which also features Hartley’s characteristic massive white-banded clouds and white foamed waves. Nature dominates in each composition, but the presence of man is demonstrated by sailboats in the earlier work and by distant houses, rendered indistinct in the middle ground, in the latter. Hartley focused on a dramatic white spray of the sea in The Wave (figure 3), but the disturbance he alluded to in the title, Storm  Down Pine Point Way, Old Orchard Beach, helps to explain the emptiness at what was a popular beach resort.

"It is not known precisely when and where Hartley painted Storm Down Pine Point Way, Old Orchard Beach or even if he painted it just after a visit there. Most likely, Hartley composed this evocation of his favorite resort from memory, for the image is quite generalized, even abstract. Indeed, the abstract quality of this work has prompted some critics to compare it to a painting by Mark Rothko. Hartley reduced details to a minimum and made the atmosphere of the whole scene overshadow any specificity of place. Unlike Hartley’s Northern Seascape, Off the Banks or The Wave, the composition of Storm Down Pine Point Way, Old Orchard Beach is not parallel to the picture plane. Instead the lines of the waves draw the viewer into the painting’s magical depths. Hartley reminds us of the power of the sea and of the title he gave the volume of poems that he published in 1941: Sea Burial. In the poem entitled, 'Confidence,' he wrote of seagulls that speak of 'the thundering sea' and 'though the wave is full of bread, a wing is often tendon-weary.' Hartley may have been identifying with the gulls, for he, too, had traveled far and weary had come home."

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