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Lot 123 (British & European Fine Art, 27th August 2020)



Two Shells
bears signature Marsden Hartley (lower right) in pencil
pen and black ink over traces of pencil
inscribed Estate 447-A (verso)
34 x 25cm (13 1/2 x 10in) - sheet size

Stamps and labels on the backboard:
Eva Lee's Gallery, 19A Cutlet Mill Road, Great Neck, N.Y. (stamped)
Washburn Gallery, 42 East 57th Street New York, N.Y. 10022, stock no. 7438

Executed in 1936, the present work is one of a series of drawings and paintings of shells, star fish, bones, and other beach detritus that Hartley executed in Nova Scotia that year. The drawing was part of the artist's estate as recorded in Elizabeth McCausland’s research papers from the 1940s and 1950s on Marsden Hartley’s work in the Archives of American Art, Washington DC, USA.

One of the leading artists of American Modernism, Marsden Hartley's unique style drew on vibrant colours and geometric abstraction but also a deep feeling for landscape. As evident in Two Shells, Hartley was a skilled draughtsman, attuned to the minutiae of natural forms.

Born in Lewiston, Maine, Hartley moved with his family to Ohio in 1893 where he studied at the Cleveland School of Art. Hartley's work caught the attention of the school's trustees, who granted him the financial means to continue studying in New York City for five years, beginning in 1899 at the Shinnecock Hills School of Art directed by William Merritt Chase and the National Academy of Design. In 1912 he travelled to Paris, where he was attracted to the work of the Post-Impressionists, Fauvists and Cubists, notably the work of Paul Cézanne and Henri Matisse, and formed relationships with key members of the French avant-garde, including Gertrude Stein, Pablo Picasso, Georges Braque, and Robert Delaunay. From these formative travels, Hartley spent much of the next 25 years living further afield, notably Berlin, Bermuda, Mexico, the American Southwest, and Nova Scotia (where he drew the present work), before returning to his native State of Maine in 1937 where he reached the pinnacle of his artistic achievement in his iconic seascapes, landscapes, and figurative works.

The present work will be included in the online catalogue Marsden Hartley Legacy Project: The Complete Paintings and Works on Paper, being prepared by Gail R. Scott at Bates College Museum of Art, Lewiston, Maine USA.

We are grateful to Gail R. Scott for her assistance in cataloguing this work.

Sold for £3,500

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