DescriptionJOHN MARIN (American, 1870-1953)
Lighthouse, Stonington, Maine, 1921
Watercolor on paper
21-7/8 x 26-1/4 inches (55.6 x 66.7 cm) (sheet)
Signed and dated lower right: Marin 21
John Marin, Jr.;
[With]The Downtown Gallery, Inc., New York;
Harold O. Love, Detroit, Michigan, acquired from the above, June 4, 1962;
By descent to the present owner.
Montross Gallery, New York, "Marin Show," 1921;
De Young Memorial Museum, San Francisco, California, and elsewhere, "First Marin Retrospective on West Coast," n.d., (as Mark Island Lighthouse);
Cincinnati Art Museum, Cincinnati, Ohio, n.d.;
University of Michigan Museum of Art, Detroit, Michigan, "Alumni Exhibition," October 1-31, 1967.
S. Reich, John Marin: A Stylistic Analysis and Catalogue Raisonné, Part II, Tucson, Arizona, 1970, p. 485, no. 21.27.
In 1914, John Marin began escaping the bustle of New York City to spend months at a time painting the rocky shoreline of Maine. The rugged outcrops and wild, churning sea had a profound impact on his artistic direction, and subsequently, Maine became the artist's most compelling subject matter. This transitional moment was noted by a critic reviewing one of the artist's 1916 exhibitions: "Everything speaks of a liberation of spirit, working in harmony with its surroundings and actively alive" (as quoted in R.E. Fine, John Marin, exhibition catalogue, New York, 1990, p. 168).
Marin's discovery of Maine defined a pivotal moment in his career. Indeed, that year was the artist's most prolific to date, and he produced nearly 100 paintings. These early depictions of the natural Maine landscape reflect a remarkable similarity to the New York cityscapes he was painting outside of the summer months. Both the city and the coastline inspired him--but ultimately it was from nature where Marin drew his primary motifs. "He was endlessly fascinated by the rugged contours of the Maine landscape and the sea, but he transposed his impressions into abstract pictorial design. By way of explanation he wrote, 'Seems to me that the true artist must perforce go from time to time to the elemental big forms--Sky, Sea, Mountain, Plain--and those things pertaining thereto, to sort of re-true himself up, to recharge the battery. For these big forms have everything. But to express these, you have to love these, to be part of these in sympathy'" (as quoted in Expression and Meaning: The Marine Paintings of John Marin, p. 14).
In Lighthouse, Stonington, Maine, Marin tightens his geometric style when painting his sky, lighthouse and ocean. He places the horizon line low, flattening the natural elements of the seascape against the picture plane. He avoids the complex overlapping of geometric shapes and instead creates a pattern of broadly conceived forms resulting from a strong contrast of color. Marin uses assertive strokes of blue and grey to capture the striations of a cloudy sky, above the staccato roofline of the lighthouse, which is viewed from below as a monumental focal point of the composition. The shoreline and sky are separated from the rolling green waves of the sea by a band of negative space that is Marin's interpretation of the shoreline cliffs.
Lighthouse, Stonington, Maine demonstrates Marin at the height of his abilities, conveying his unique and highly-personalized sensibility to nature, which set him apart from his contemporaries and garnered him distinction as one of America's leading Modernists.
The present work is accompanied by photocopies of the original bill of sale from The Downtown Gallery, Inc., as well as a letter from the Gallery Director about the painting's subject matter and a letter of provenance from John Marin, Jr.
Work comprises two sheets (smaller sheet adhered to larger sheet); smaller sheet slightly undulating along the right edge; scattered minor surface soiling/smudges; light toning along larger sheet edges, particularly right; Framed Dimensions 28.5 X 33 Inches
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