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Marsden Hartley (January 4, 1877 - September 2, 1943) was an American Modernist painter, poet, and essayist of the early 20th century. Hartley was born in Lewistonmarker, Mainemarker, USA, where his English parents had settled. He began his art training at the Cleveland Institute of Art after the family moved to Clevelandmarker, Ohiomarker, in 1892. He was born Edmund Hartley, but chose to take on his step-mother's maiden name, Marsden, as his first name.

New York City

At the age of 22, Hartley moved to New York City, where he attended the National Academy of Designmarker and studied painting at the Art Students League of New York under William Merritt Chase. A great admirer of Albert Pinkham Ryder, Hartley would visit Ryder's studio in Greenwich Villagemarker as often as possible. While in New York, he came to the attention of Alfred Stieglitz and became associated with Stieglitz' 291 Gallery Group. Hartley had his first major exhibition at the 291 Gallery in 1909 and another in 1912. He was in the cultural vanguard, in the same milieu as Gertrude Stein, Hart Crane, Charles Demuth, Georgia O'Keeffe, Fernand L├ęger, Ezra Pound, Arnold Ronnebeck among many others.

Hartley, who was gay, painted Portrait of a German Officer (1914), which was an ode to Karl von Freyburg, his friend Arnold Ronnebeck's cousin and a Prussian lieutenant of whom he became enamored before von Freyburg's death in World War I.


Marsden Hartley traveled throughout the USA and Europe in the early years of the 20th century. Considered an early modernist, Hartley was a nomadic painter for much of his life. He painted from Maine to Massachusettsmarker, in New Mexicomarker, Californiamarker, New York and Western Europe. Finally, after spending many years away from his native state, he returned to Maine toward the end of his life. He wanted to become "the painter of Maine" and depict American life at a local level. In this way, he is a member of the regionalists, a group of artists from the early to mid 20th century that attempted to represent a distinctly "American art."


In addition to being considered one of the foremost American painters of the first half of the 20th century, Hartley also wrote poems, essays, and stories.

Cleophas and His Own: A North Atlantic Tragedy is a story based on two periods he spent in 1935 and 1936 with the Mason family in the Lunenburg County, Nova Scotiamarker, fishing community of East Point Island. Hartley, then in his late 50s, found there both an innocent, unrestrained love and the sense of family he had been seeking since his unhappy childhood in Maine. The impact of this experience lasted until his death in 1943 and helped widen the scope of his mature works, which included numerous portrayals of the Masons.

He wrote of the Masons, "Five magnificent chapters out of an amazing, human book, these beautiful human beings, loving, tender, strong, courageous, dutiful, kind, so like the salt of the sea, the grit of the earth, the sheer face of the cliff." In Cleophas and His Own, written in Nova Scotiamarker in the fall of 1936 and re-printed in Marsden Hartley and Nova Scotia, Hartley expresses his immense grief at the tragic drowning of the Mason sons. The independent filmmaker Michael Maglaras has created a feature film Cleophas and His Own, released in 2005, which uses a personal testament by Hartley as its screenplay.

A "catalogue raisonne" of Hartley's work is underway by art historian Gail Levin, Distinguished Professor at Baruch Collegemarker, and The Graduate Center of The City University of New York.


  1. Portrait of a German Officer | Marsden Hartley | All | All Departments | Collection Database | Works of Art | The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York at


  • Cassidy, Donna M. Marsden Hartley: Race, Region, and Nation. Hanover: University Press of New England, 2005.
  • Coco, Janice. "Dialogues with the Self: New Thoughts on Marsden Hartley's Self-Portraits." Prospects: An Annual of American Cultural Studies 30 (2005): 623-649.
  • Ferguson, Gerald, Ed. [Essays by Ronald Paulson and Gail R. Scott]. Marsden Hartley and Nova Scotia. Halifax: The Press of the Nova Scotia College of Art and Designmarker, 1987. ISBN 0-919616-32-1
  • Harnsberger, R. Scott. Four Artists of the Stieglitz Circle: A Sourcebook on Arthur Dove, Marsden Hartley, John Marin, and Max Weber [Art Reference Collection, no. 26]. Westport: Greenwood Press, 2002.
  • Hartley, Marsden. Adventures in the Arts: Informal Chapters on Painters, Vaudeville, and Poets. New York: Boni and Liveright, 1921.
  • Hartley, Marsden. Selected Poems: Marsden Hartley. Ed. Henry W. Wells. New York: Viking Press, 1945.
  • Hartley, Marsden. Somehow a Past: The Autobiography of Marsden Hartley. Ed. Susan Elizabeth Ryan. Cambridge: MIT Press, 1997.
  • Haskell, Barbara. Marsden Hartley. Exhibition Catalogue. Whitney Museum of American Art. New York: New York University Press, 1980.
  • Kornhauser, Elizabeth Mankin, Ed. Marsden Hartley. Exhibition catalogue. New Haven: Yale University Press, 2003.
  • Ludington, Townsend. Marsden Hartley: The Biography of an American Artist. Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1992.
  • Scott, Gail R. Marsden Hartley. New York: Abbeville Press, 1988.
  • Weinberg, Jonathan. Speaking for Vice: Homosexuality in the Art of Charles Demuth, Marsden Hartley, and the First American Avant- Garde. New Haven: Yale University Press, 1993.

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Marsden Hartley writings


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