SEEKING THE SPIRITUAL: The Paintings of Marsden Hartley


 By Townsend Ludington

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Marsden Hartley (1877-1943) was a writer and a spiritual seeker, as well as a distinguished American painter.

In his introduction to this generously illustrated volume, Townsend Ludington explores the relationships among Hartley’s art, poetry, and essays. He traces the philosophical and literary sources that nourished the artist’s evolving spiritual consciousness.

Raised in Lewiston, Maine, Hartley felt at odds with life. A voracious reader, he educated himself and became enamored of the transcendentalists Ralph Waldo Emerson and Henry David Thoreau, and, particularly, of Walt Whitman. He began spending winters in New York City where he met and was befriended by Alfred Stieglitz. He visited Europe but remained restless for the right physical environment. Eventually returning to New England, Hartley painted in Dogtown, Massachusetts, in the low hills behind the port of Gloucester, and the stark landscape there stimulated some of his most famous paintings.

Throughout his career, Hartley painted landscapes and seascapes in which he tried to convey his sense of the wonder of earth, at the same time attempting to articulate the spiritual awareness that came to him in the “magic of dreams.”


Curated by Barbara Matilsky and Lisa Skrabek