Lot 28
  • 28

Marsden Hartley

700,000 - 1,000,000 USD
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  • Marsden Hartley
  • New Mexico Recollections
  • oil on canvas
  • 21 3/4 by 35 1/4 inches
  • (55.2 by 89.5 cm)
  • Painted circa 1922-23.


Carl Sprinchorn, 1935 (acquired from the artist)
Babcock Galleries, New York, 1957
Private collection (sold: Sotheby Parke Bernet, October 27, 1978, lot 180, as New Mexican Desert Landscape)
Private collection, Maine (acquired at the above sale; sold: Sotheby's, New York, May 24, 2001, lot 51)
Salander-O'Reilly Galleries, New York (acquired at the above sale)
Owings-Dewey Fine Art, Santa Fe, New Mexico
Private collection
Acquired by the present owner from the above, circa 2014


New York, Babcock Galleries, 1957 (as Landscape New Mexico)
New York, Salander-O'Reilly Galleries, Marsden Hartley and Walt Kuhn, "The Landscapes," January-February 1988, no. 12
Portland, Maine, Portland Museum of Art (on loan)


"Three of the Newly Opened Shows," The New York Times, April 21, 1957, illustrated
Patricia Boyd Wilson, "American Individualist," Christian Science Monitor, The Home Forum, June 28, 1972, p. 8, illustrated (as New Mexico Desert)
Jeanne Hokin, Pinnacles & Pyramids: The Art of Marsden Hartley, Albuquerque, New Mexico, 1993, p. 49, illustrated fig. 23 (as New Mexico Landscape)

Catalogue Note

Painted in Berlin circa 1922-23, New Mexico Recollections is one of approximately twenty-four paintings produced by Marsden Hartley as a series of the same title. This series of southwestern landscapes is considered Hartley’s first important body of work after World War I and stands today as a reflection of a deeply significant artistic and emotional moment for the artist. Among this body of work, New Mexico Recollections is a prototypical example, with memories of the past surfacing as evidence of Hartley’s evolution back to an American mentality.

After about a year and a half in Berlin, in March of 1923, Marsden Hartley wrote to his New York dealer, Alfred Stieglitz, to report that he was postponing his departure to Italy because he was just getting into some "exceptional painting" and was pleased with its "plastic simplicity" (Letter from Hartley to Stieglitz, March 1923, Alfred Stieglitz/Georgia O'Keeffe Archive, Yale Collection of American Literature, MSS 85; All following quotes by Hartley in this essay are from six letters to Stieglitz in the Yale archive: undated [March]; March [1]; April 28; May 23; and July 17). In subsequent letters that spring and summer, Hartley variously described this new work as "New Mexican landscape recollections" and "New Mexican & Texas landscape inventions," adding that he ventured toward these landscapes because "I have done about all I could of objects." As landscape "inventions" these paintings were pure products of memory and imagination, yet no less real than the original, outward experience had been.

New Mexico Recollections is a painting of the mind rather than of place, which can be readily observed in the mood, color, and execution of the work. The scene, rendered with intense physicality, is foreboding. In the immediate foreground strange, nearly abstract forms are present including the skull of a bull which quietly sits among the desert vegetation at lower left. The narrow pathway that allows access to the open desert at center is delineated by wide swaths of beige, green and brown and long oval cloud formations, echoing the form of the vegetation below, hang low and heavy over the mountain range. It is true that Hartley produced this body of work from memory of visits at least five years prior and the series speaks to that by provoking a sense of fantasy in each rendering.

The New Mexico Recollection pictures both recall and anticipate other points in Hartley's career when his encounters with nature plunged abruptly and dramatically into unearthly, abstracted landscape renderings, full of dark mystery and stemming from and speaking more to the imagination than observed reality.  These periods, of when landscape as invention took over entirely, began as early as 1909 and 1910 when Hartley completed the so-called Dark Mountain or Deserted Farm canvases (Dark Mountain No. 1 and No. 2, Metropolitan Museum of Art, Alfred Stieglitz Collection) after first seeing the work of Albert Pinkham Ryder. Later, in the 1930s, the Dogtown series again recalls a strange, forbidding and fantastical landscape near Gloucester, Massachusetts. The three series share many characteristics: dead trees and twisted, broken shrubs evoke an eerie, distinctly unnatural scene; the viewer's visual path into the space of these pictures is blocked by either rocks or vegetation or both; a dark, largely monochromatic or limited palette pervades; the brushwork is energetic and intensely physical, emphasizing sweeping and directional lines.

As Hartley scholars concentrate on the New Mexico Recollection series, the artist’s resurgence into American subjects after World War I is considered his most successful body of work allowing New Mexico Recollections, circa 1922-23, to stand as one of the earliest and truest examples.