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Mt. Katahdin, Maine, No. 2

Marsden Hartley (American, Lewiston, Maine 1877–1943 Ellsworth, Maine)

Oil on canvas
30 1/4 x 40 1/4 in. (76.8 x 102.2 cm)
Credit Line:
Edith and Milton Lowenthal Collection, Bequest of Edith Abrahamson Lowenthal, 1991
Accession Number:
  • Description

    The American artist Marsden Hartley was one of this country's first modern painters. A member of Alfred Stieglitz's circle of avant-garde artists and critics, Hartley spent his life traveling from place to place, often altering his artistic style dramatically with each new environment. Early in his career, he went to Europe to study the works of the European modernists and was influenced as much by the German Expressionists as by the French Fauves and the Cubists, whose work had an impact on other American artists during the same period. Hartley often combined the expressive intensity of German art with the compositional innovations of the Cubists and a mystical symbolism drawn from his own spiritual beliefs. Hartley painted in Germany, New York, and Nova Scotia, before returning, toward the end of his life, to his native Maine where he produced a great number of landscapes.

    Between 1939 and 1942 Hartley created more than eighteen paintings of Maine's highest peak Mount Katahdin, which led him to characterize himself as the "portrait painter" of the site. He visited there with a guide for eight days in mid-October 1939. The trip involved an eighty-mile car ride and a four-mile hike through arduous terrain, undertaken mostly in the dark. For the sixty-two-year-old artist, however, it was a spiritual reawakening and provided him with a potent motif for his late-period work. Hartley stayed on Katahdin Lake in a log cabin, from which he had a view of the water and of the summit of the mountain. His first pictures made at the scene were drawings and small oil sketches, which the artist later used, along with his memories, to paint the larger canvases on this theme. "Mt. Katahdin, Maine, Number 2" was the second in the series. The artist took some liberties in altering the placement or perspective of certain key elements, but all of the works depict the mountain from the northeast, so that its most recognizable conical shape is clearly silhouetted against the sky, with the lake, rolling hills, and trees below it. Differences in the paintings occur in Hartley's manipulation of spatial perspective and in his depictions of color, light, and changing weather conditions.

    In this version of Mount Katahdin the sky, clouds, mountain, hills, and lake are all presented as separate large, flat shapes. Each is clearly defined by its precise form and color. The strong autumnal red of the intermediate hills is dramatically set off against the deep blues of the lake, mountain, and sky. The bright white clouds and the thin strip of white spray around the shoreline provide the only light notes in this somewhat subdued yet majestic view of the mountain. In this painting, Hartley uses the pictorial elements he developed while experimenting with modernism—his bold style of flattened planes and abstracted shapes—and applied them to a traditional landscape subject, creating a unique and deeply expressive image.

  • Signatures, Inscriptions, and Markings

    Signature: Signed, dated, and inscribed (on reverse): MT. KTAADN (Maine)/Autumn #2/Marsden Hartley/1939-40

  • Provenance

    the artist (until d. 1943); [Paul Rosenberg, New York, until 1944; sold on December 22 to Lowenthal]; Edith and Milton Lowenthal, New York (1944–his d. 1987); Edith Lowenthal, New York (1987–d. 1991, her bequest to MMA)

  • Exhibition History

    Tokyo Metropolitan Art Museum. "Earth, Sea, and Sky. Nature in Western Art: Masterpieces from The Metropolitan Museum of Art," October 6, 2012–January 4, 2013, no. 103.

    Beijing. National Museum of China. "Earth, Sea, and Sky. Nature in Western Art: Masterpieces from The Metropolitan Museum of Art," February 8–May 9, 2013, no. 103.

    Hartford, Connecticut: Wadsworth Atheneum Museum of Art, January 18 - April 20, 2003. Washington, DC: The Phillips Collection, June 7 - September 7, 2003. ¦Marsden Hartley. plate 91, p.256, detail title page, illus. in color, discussed pp.184-85, and pp.322-32.

    Albany, New York: New York State Museum, May 29 - November 4, 2001. ¦Twentieth-Century American Ladscapes from The Metropolitan Museum of Art¦.

    Washington, DC: The National Gallery of Art, January 28, 2001 - April 22, 2001. ¦Alfred Stieglitz and Modern Art in America¦. plate158, p.419.

    New York: Metropolitan Museum of Art, October 10, 1996 - January 12, 1997. ¦American Art: The Edith and Milton Lowenthal Collection¦.

    Brooklyn, New York: The Brooklyn Museum, March 21 - May 10, 1981. ¦The Edith and Milton Lowenthal Collection¦. no. 34

    New York: American Federation of Art, May 25-June 5, 1964. ¦Selections from the Edith and Milton Lowenthal Collection¦.

    Fort Worth, Texas: The Fort Worth Art Center, October 8 - 31, 1954. ¦Inaugural Exhibition¦.

    New York: Whitney Museum of American Art, October 1 - November 2, 1952. Minneapolis, Minnesota: Walker Art Center, November 28, 1952 - January 17, 1953. ¦Edith and Milton Lowenthal Collection¦.

    Buffalo, New York: Albright Art Gallery, May 10 - June 29,1952. ¦Expressionism in American Painting¦.

    New York: Museum of Modern Art, July 20 - September 12, 1948. ¦New York Private Collections¦.

    Boston, MA: Institute of Contemporary Art, March 2 - April 1, 1945. ¦Four Modern American Painters¦.

    Detroit, Michigan: The Detroit Institute of Arts, April 4 - 30, 1944. ¦Advance Trends in Contemporary American Art¦.

    New York, NY: Hudson D. Walker, March 11 - 30, 1940. ¦Recent Paintings of Maine: Marsden Hartley¦.

  • References

    Albright Art Gallery. Expressionism in American Painting. 1952, no. 34 (ill.)

    American Federation of Art. Selections from the Edith and Milton Lowenthal Collection, 1964. p.2

    Dennis, James M. Renegade Regionalists: The Modern Independence of Grant Wood, Thomas Hart Benton, and John Steuart Curry. Madison, WI: University of Wisconsin Press, 1998, mentioned in text p. 237; illustrated (b&w) fig. 147 p. 238

    The Detroit Institute of Arts. Advance Trends in Contemporary American Art. 1944, no. 47

    The Fort Worth Art Center. Inaugural Exhibition, 1954. no. 40 (ill.)

    Greenough, Sarah, et. al. Modern Art and America: Alfred Stieglitz and His New York Galleries. National Gallery of Art, 2000. Cat. no. 158, p. 419 (ill. in color).

    Haskell, Barbara. Marsden Hartley. NY:Whitney Museum of American Art, in association with New York University Press, 1980. p. 118 (ill. in black and white) fig. 103, p. 118.

    Hudson D. Walker, NY. Recent Paintings of Maine: Marsden Hartley. 1940. no. 18

    Institute of Contemporary Art, Boston. Four Modern American Painters. 1945, no. 33

    Messinger, Lisa Mintz. American Art: The Edith and Milton Lowenthal Collection, The Metropolitan Museum of Art Bulletin, Vol. 54, no. 1, Summer 1996. Discussed & illus. (color) p. 11; Mentioned pp.3,7; Listed in illustrated checklist p. 46.

    Museum of Modern Art, NY. New York Private Collections. 1948.

    Whitney Museum of American Art. Edith and Milton Lowenthal Collection. 1952, no. 44

  • See also