Marsden Hartley
American, 1887-1943

Indian Composition, 1914
Oil on canvas
Gift of Paul Rosenfeld
Period: 20th c
Classification: Painting
Dimensions: Crate: 61 x 60 x 12 in. (154.94 x 152.4 x 30.48 cm) Framed: 50 1/16 x 49 5/8 x 2 5/8 in. (127.16 x 126.05 x 6.67 cm) Unframed: 47 3/16 x 47 in. (119.86 x 119.38 cm)
Signatures, Inscriptions and Markings v
Not signed
Provenance v
Paul Rosenfeld estate via Edna Bryner Schwab, executor
Published References v
Sherry, Jay, The Jungian Strand in Transatlantic Modernism, (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2018), p.54, repr.
Exhibition History v
Berlin, Germany, Neue Nationalgalerie Berlin, "Mardsen Hartley - The German Paintings" April 5 - June 29, 2014 Los Angeles, California, Los Angeles County Museum of Art, "Mardsen Hartley - The German Paintings" August 3 - November 30, 2014 Frankfurt, Germany, Schirn Kunsthalle, "I Like America," Sept. 9, 2006-Jan. 19, 2007. Hartford, CT, Wadsworth Atheneum Museum of Art, Washington D.C.,The Phillips Collection, Kansas City, Mo., Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, "Marsden Hartley: American Modernist" Jan. 17, 2003-Jan. 4, 2004. Washington D.C., National Gallery of Art, "Alfred Steiglitz and Modern Art in America," January 28-April 22, 2001. Frankfurt, Germany, Schirn Kunsthalle, “Okkultismus und Avantgarde Von Munch bis Mondrian 1900-1915” (Occultism and the Avant-garde 1900-1915) June 3-August 20 1995 New York, NY, Museum of Modern Art, Detroit, MI, The Detroit Institute of Arts, Dallas, TX, The Dallas Museum of Art, "'PRIMITIVISM’ IN 20th CENTURY ART: Affinity of the Tribal and the Modern” September 19, 1984-September 8, 1985 New York, NY, Whitney Museum of American Art, Chicago, IL, The Art Institute of Chicago, Fort Worth, TX, Amon Carter Museum, Berkeley, CA, University Art Museum, "Marsden Hartley" March 4, 1980-January 11, 1981 New York, NY, Heckscher Museum, “Art Deco and Its Origins”, September 22- November 3, 1974 New York, NY, Museum of American Folk Art, “What is American in American Art,” February 8-March 6, 1971 Austin, TX, University Art Museum at The University of Texas, Tuscon, AZ, University Galleries and University of Southern California, "Marsden Hartley-Painter-Poet" November 15, 1968- April 27, 1969 Baltimore, MD, The Baltimore Museum of Art, “1914” October 6- November 15, 1964
Description v
Born in Maine, Marsden Hartley was a key member of the group of Amer- ican Modernists promoted by Alfred Stieglitz before the Second World War at his various galleries in New York. Hartley spent the years 1912–1915 abroad in Paris and, later, Berlin, returning only briefly in 1914 to install an exhibition of his work at Stieglitz’s 291 Gallery. Indian Composition, painted in the spring and summer of 1914, was one of seven paintings from a series en- titled Amerika that he executed in 1914/15. The general theme explored his internal conflicts as an American enamored with life in Germany on the eve of war. The first paintings in the series utilize the symbols of Native Amer- ican life, and the later ones add motifs taken from German folk traditions. The Vassar painting has been viewed as reflecting Hartley’s respect for the Native American’s life, lived in harmony with the land, as well as the fascina- tion with this culture viewed through the eyes of Germans, whose familiarity with the American Indian was influenced largely by popular adventure novels such as those by Karl May. The meaning of this painting can best be understood through the words of the artist himself, who in November 1914 wrote to Alfred Stieglitz that “I find myself wanting to be an Indian— to paint my face with the symbols of that race I adore, to go to the West and face the sun forever—that would seem the true expression of human dignity.” Indian Composition was owned by the music critic and writer Paul Rosenfeld before it was given to Vassar following his death by his executor, Edna Bryner Schwab. It was Rosenfeld who in Hartley’s obituary character- ized him as “the gaunt eagle from the hills of Maine.”
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