BIRTH: 1870 MARIN
Born on 23 December 1870: John Marin,
US artist who died on 02 October 1953.
John Marin was born in Rutherford, New Jersey. His father was a public accountant; his mother died only nine days after his birth. He was taken to his maternal grandparents with whom he lived in Weehawken, NJ, directly across the Hudson River from New York. His grandparents, along with their son and two daughters, were the only real parents Marin was to know. His father seems to have ignored him.
As a child of seven or eight Marin began to sketch, and when he was a teenager he had completed his earliest watercolors, using a technique of transparent washes, rather than delineating form. Thus, his work resembled American Impressionism, though he was never labeled an Impressionist. Marin's education in the schools of New Jersey was interspersed with summers of hunting, fishing and sketching. He made careful sketches of the landscape in the Catskills, as had an earlier school of artists. He also worked around White Lake in New York, and made sketching trips as far afield as Wisconsin and Minnesota.
His careerlong dedication to intimate qualities in nature has its source in these earlier works. In much later paintings, can be identified these elements and Marin's concern with the phenomena of weather, the fortuitous and poetic aspects of an ever-changing nature. Throughout the nineteenth century US artists who were most self-reliant in terms of training tended to produce the strongest and most enduring work. John Marin brings this national characteristic into the twentieth century. Formal training was almost incidental to his development as an artist
In 1893, Marin established himself as a practicing architect, a career he pursued for the next eleven years, until, at the age of twenty-eight, he decided to become a professional artist. He studied briefly at both the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts in Philadelphia and the Art Students League in New York. By the time he was thirty-five, Marin had developed a small, intimate type of watercolor sketching done from nature, Impressionistic in general atmospheric effects and comparable with the aesthetic of late Impressionism.
Following the practice of most US artists at that time, Marin sailed for Paris with the intention of continuing his education and making himself known as an artist. He drifted about Europe for the next five years, developing his strength as an artist slowly but steadily. Later he described that period as a time when he . . . played some billiards, incidentally knocked out some batches of etchings. Marin admired James McNeill Whistler, who, at the end of the 19th century personally symbolized to US art students the international-cosmopolitan aspirations of the day. (Whistler died in 1903, but his influence was an important factor in the development of Marin's painting and etching skills.)
An important event in Marin's life while in Paris was his meeting with American photographer Alfred Stieglitz. This meeting led to his association with The Photo Secession Gallery at 291 Fifth Avenue, known as 291, where Marin was granted his first important exhibition in the U.S. in February 1910. This unique artist-dealer relationship lasted until Stieglitz's death in 1946. By placing all financial affairs in the hands of his friend, Marin enjoyed absolute freedom to pursue his work. In the next several years Marin painted some of the most important works of his career, inspired by New York City. His subjects were the architectural monuments of the city and the basic structural forces seemingly pent up within them. However, by 1914 he had moved in a new direction, away from the city and toward nature, the inspiration of his youth. This was also the year he "discovered Maine." Almost without exception throughout the rest of his life, Marin made numerous paintings of the state of Maine on annual summer visits Though he made a few nonobjective watercolors, Marin could never accept the basic concept of abstraction; but in the 1920s, his style embraced some Cubist elements. His work in this period was classical, involving a sweep and thrust which brings in the total force of the land, sea, and sky, giving it a firmly structured spatial order..Marin had reached the full capacity of the medium of watercolor. He had proved beyond any doubt that it need not be a second rate means of expression.
Throughout most of his career, Marin worked in both oil and watercolor, fully emerging in the 1930s as a marine painter. He intended to create ". . . paint wave a breaking on paint shore." He had no patience with any kind of art that had its origin in the mind without reference to the outside world. Marin's recognition as an eminent American artist was evident in New York and beyond. In 1947 he was honored by a second traveling retrospective outside the confines of the Stieglitz galleries, as well as three publications devoted exclusively to his work. In 1948, Look Magazine announced that Marin had been the choice of artists and musuem directors as the pre-eminent artist now working in the United States; and in 1949, Marin was given a retrospective exhibition of oils, watercolors and etchings at the de Young Museum in San Francisco. John Marin died on 02 October 1953, one month and twenty-one days short of his eighty-third birthday.
26 etchings at FAMSF
Landscape, Mountains (1918, 42x49cm) ._ Following several years in Europe, Marin returned to this country in 1911 to paint his modernist vision of the architectural monuments of New York, the woodlands of New England and eventually the rugged coast of Maine where he spent the rest of his life. Landscape, Mountains, depicted in pale washes of yellow, green, and blue activated by open, negative spaces, reflects the artist's respect for the essential forces of nature that shape and form the world.