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PROPERTY FROM A NEW YORK COLLECTION

Marsden Hartley
1877 - 1943
MOUNTAINS NO. 23 (MOUNTAIN LANDSCAPE)
Estimate
600,000800,000
LOT SOLD. 869,000 USD
JUMP TO LOT
30

PROPERTY FROM A NEW YORK COLLECTION

Marsden Hartley
1877 - 1943
MOUNTAINS NO. 23 (MOUNTAIN LANDSCAPE)
Estimate
600,000800,000
LOT SOLD. 869,000 USD
JUMP TO LOT

Details & Cataloguing

American Art

|
New York

Marsden Hartley
1877 - 1943
MOUNTAINS NO. 23 (MOUNTAIN LANDSCAPE)
oil on canvas
29 3/4 by 27 3/4 inches
(75.6 by 70.5 cm)
Painted in 1930.
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We are grateful to Gail R. Scott for her assistance in cataloguing this lot.

Provenance

Estate of the artist
Paul Rosenberg & Co., New York
Martha Jackson Gallery, New York
Private Collection, circa 1960 (likely acquired from the above)
By descent to the present owners

Exhibited

Yonkers, New York, Hudson River Museum, The Book of Nature: American Painters in the Natural Sublime, October 1983-January 1984

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. 114, illustrated neg. no. 42,

Catalogue Note

Marsden Hartley wrote in 1932 “To understand the mountain one must have a feeling for it, one must know it, sense it in all its moods and aspects, the affirmation and the negation” (Jeanne Hokin, Pinnacles & Pyramids: The Art of Marsden Hartley, Albuquerque, New Mexico, 1993, p. 135). With a simple composition and cool palette that highlights the subject’s solitary but heroic nature, Mountains No. 23 illustrates Hartley’s captivation with the mountain motif—referred to by Jeanne Hokin as “the essential metaphor of his creative spirit” (Hokin, p. xvii). As one of the few American artists in the early twentieth century to concern himself with this subject, Hartley found mystical and spiritual associations in the theme and consistently returned to it during his travels to New Mexico, Maine, Germany, southern France, and New Hampshire.

The present work likely depicts the massive Mount Moosilauke, one of the highest peaks in the White Mountains of New Hampshire. After spending almost nine years in Europe, Hartley returned to America determined to reintegrate himself artistically into a country from which he felt personally and professionally alienated during his time abroad. Barbara Haskell writes, “Hartley would eventually rediscover a sense of ‘home’ in America. But when he arrived back in March 1930, he found an art community that had turned from European models to American themes and American forms of expression” (Marsden Hartley, New York, 1980, p. 80). Unable to face the New York critics who had previously rejected his un-American landscapes, but also unwilling to go back to his childhood home of Maine, Hartley chose to spend the summer and early fall of 1930 just across the Maine border in Sugar Hill, New Hampshire. There, he rented a house with a friend for three dollars a week in Franconia Valley—a location that provided him with access to breathtaking vistas of the White Mountains and the opportunity to immerse himself in a truly ‘American’ setting. Hartley’s immediate reaction to this monumental landscape resulted in a period of both heightened artistic creativity and a renewed hope that the new works might win support from a highly critical public.

Hartley spent part of his lengthy European sojourn in Aix-en-Provence, the hometown of Paul Cézanne. It was here that Hartley found inspiration in the French artist’s still lifes and landscapes, an influence clearly visible in Hartley’s earlier mountain scenes such as his Mont Sainte-Victoire series. While Hartley's admiration for Cézanne's distinctive style and vision of the landscape is still evident in Mountains No. 23, the painting demonstrates an important transition in Hartley’s career. Upon his return to America, Hartley moved away from the objective Cézannesque style of distinct and vibrant bands of color towards a more restrained palette of blue, purple, gray, and green that gradually forms homogenous areas of tonality. In the present work, Hartley’s stylistic shift serves to emphasize the sensation of tranquility and physicality that he found within the mountain’s impressive pyramidal form.

Hartley’s enchantment with the wild landscape of New Hampshire was brief but highly prolific. Upon returning to New York in the fall of 1930, his anxiety about the possible disapproval of his American audience returned. Yet, these doubts proved unwarranted. The success he achieved with an exhibition of works at Stieglitz’s gallery, which included paintings from his mountain series, provided Hartley with financial stability for an entire year. This career boost foreshadowed Hartley’s future dismissal of the hesitancy that had plagued the previous decade of his career—a conscious dismissal that freed him to move towards a more expressive and dynamic style.

American Art

|
New York