Estate of the artist, until 1956
Martha Jackson Gallery, until 1959
Nelson Taylor Gallery, until 1960
Mr. and Mrs. Herman Schneider
Gift from the above to the present owner, 1967
Marsden Hartley returned to America after almost nine years in Europe, determined to reintegrate himself artistically into a country from which he felt personally and professionally alienated during his long sojourn abroad. Barbara Haskell writes, “Hartley would eventually rediscover a sense of ‘home’ in America. But when he arrived back in 1930, he found an art community that had turned from European models to American themes and American forms of expression. In such an atmosphere, his paintings were viewed suspiciously” (Marsden Hartley, New York, 1980, p. 80). Unable to face returning to New York and the critics who had previously rejected him, but also unwilling to go back to his childhood home in Maine, Hartley chose to spend the summer of 1930 just across the state border in Sugar Hill, New Hampshire. Continually concerned about his financial situation, Hartley rented a house for three dollars a week in the Franconia Valley. This location provided Hartley with a view of the White Mountains, the same mountain range he had painted in 1906-1909 while living in North Lovell, Maine. As the artist later wrote, “I had seen Mt. Washington so many years from the Lovell side—and as is always the case with mountains, there is always the other side drawing one over—and I had never gone” (Elizabeth Mankin Kornhauser, Marsden Hartley, New Haven, Connecticut, 2002, p. 306).
Hartley’s immediate reaction to this monumental landscape resulted in a period of heightened artistic creativity. The White Mountains inspired a similar enthusiasm Hartley had experienced while living in Aix-en-Provence in 1926-27, painting Mont Sainte-Victoire and studying the work of Cézanne. Hartley hoped that this period of artistic inspiration would last long enough for him to produce a sufficient number of new paintings for Alfred Stieglitz to hold an exhibition of his work in New York the following winter. Some of Hartley’s most compelling works of this period are the series of mountains which the artist produced after several climbing expeditions to Mount Lafayette and Mount Moosilauke in the White Mountains. Mountain No. 21 reveals Hartley’s technical development away from the Cézanne inspired style that had dominated his earlier Mont Sainte-Victoire series. Jeanne Hokin notes, “Unhampered now by the oppressive ‘baggage’ of both Mont Sainte-Victoire and the myth of Cézanne, which had prevented him from transmuting the French landscape into personal reality, Hartley could begin to render his own idiosyncratic vision, focusing on a specifically American place, freed from philosophical encumbrances. . . . Here the mountain becomes a solitary, aspiring form, still heroic, yet somehow squatting ponderously beneath the infinity of the sky, while at its base a narrow plain extends into the distance, interrupted by occasional farm buildings and dense thickets or clusters of trees” (Jeanne Hokin, Pinnacles & Pyramids: The Art of Marsden Hartley, Albuquerque, New Mexico, 1993, p. 68, 70). Gail Scott writes, “Among [the forces in his personal and artistic life] was the urge to grapple with the theme of the mountain, a theme that would dominate his work for the rest of his life, culminating in the great series of Mt. Katahdin paintings (1932-42). Telling his friend Horace Traubel in 1907 of his ‘efforts at rendering the God-spirit in the mountains,’ Hartley was articulating the other force that would guide him throughout his career: the artist as visionary—one whose perception looks beyond the commonplace or the mere representation of externals and seeks instead to find nature’s essential forms.”
Hartley’s enchantment with New Hampshire did not last, and by the time he returned to New York in the fall of 1930 after only a few months, he was filled with renewed anxiety for the success of this new series of paintings. Barbara Haskell writes: “. . . the fears that his New Hampshire paintings would receive the same degree of censure that had greeted the Mont Sainte-Victoire landscapes proved unfounded. His December exhibition at Stieglitz’s newly formed gallery, An American Place, was sufficiently profitable to finance him for another year" (Marsden Hartley, p. 81).
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