Hartley, Marsden (1877–1943) By Palm, Regina
Marsden Hartley was a modernist painter and writer who worked in a variety of styles, from abstract to still life. After leaving school at fifteen to work in a factory, Hartley moved to Ohio where, in 1898, he received a scholarship to attend the Cleveland School of Art. It was there, after receiving a copy of Ralph Waldo Emerson’s Essays (1841), that Hartley became acquainted with the American spiritual and philosophical movement Transcendentalism. The following year Hartley enrolled at the New York School of Art, and in 1909 he received his first solo exhibition at Alfred Stieglitz’s 291 gallery. Hartley’s fascination with mysticism manifested itself in his paintings of grandiose mountains, Native American motifs, and religious iconography. In addition to his home state of Maine, Hartley came to love Germany. Berlin’s vibrant cultural scene, in conjunction with the city’s historical tolerance of homosexuality, may have contributed to the city’s appeal to Hartley, whom scholars believe to have been gay. Two of his most famous series, Amerika and War Motif, were both produced in Berlin in the 1910s. In addition to publishing treatises on art, Hartley wrote an autobiography, Somehow a Past (1933).