Monday, May 3, 2010

Quick - how long ago was this painted? 5 years ? 50 years? 90 years?

Well it's a John Marin from 1926 Mt. Chocorua #1.

Not many major artists of the day were working in watercolor, I don't think. (Sargent comes to mind, but he died in 1925.) After studying art in Philadelphia, in 1905 he left for Europe and stayed for six years, no doubt taking in the work of Cézanne, the Cubists, and the Fauvists.

A few important connections made a difference is his work becoming known. Stiegletz learned of him thru fellow photographer Steichen, and the former exhibited Marin's work in his studio and made introductions for him to others in the art world. Art collector Duncan Phillips was taken with his work, describing him as both an impressionist and an expressionist, "because he could capture a moment and location as well as his subjective response to it." (from Phillips Collection bio)

Marin is quoted as saying: Painting is like golf; the fewer strokes I paint, the better the picture. And that's the trick isn't it . . .which strokes?? Takes a lifetime to figure it out!

Above is Brooklyn Bridge (1912).

Here's another from this series, also 1912, that I like even better with its strong diagonals and sense of movement, a feeling for the high energy city and the structures being built.

His use of line is so good, isn't it? Doesn't seem tacked on, but absolutely right and necessary. What do you think?


  1. An acquaintance of mine has been doing watercolors for years, with mixed success. A few of his pieces are spot-on, but for the most part, he doesn't know when to stop. Marin always knew when to stop - and yet there's always so much going on!

    I especially love his paintings of the Woolworth Building.

  2. I will have to look up the Woolworth Building paintings. I know exactly what you mean about not knowing when to stop. It's so easy to wreck something when you get to a critical point and can't resist the flourish that destroys the whole thing. And with watercolor, you can't scrape it off.

  3. ". . . the flourish that destroys the whole thing."