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Marsden Hartley Loans Augment Scope of American Art at Cantor Arts Center
Marsden Hartley, Elsa, 1916. Oil on paper on cardboard. Lent by the Frederick R. Weisman Art Museum, University of Minnesota, Minneapolis. Bequest of Hudson D. Walker from the Ione and Hudson D. Walker Collection. L.59.1.2011

STANFORD, CA.- Visitors to the Cantor Arts Center now benefit from the loan of two early 20th-century paintings by Marsden Hartley (1877–1943), a major figure in American art. The Frederick R. Weisman Art Museum at the University of Minnesota, Minneapolis, is lending Hartley’s “Painting No. 2” (oil on canvas), completed in 1913, and “Elsa” (oil on paper on cardboard), from 1916. The works will remain on view to the public through early July 2012.

Each painting represents a different moment in the development of Hartley’s artistic career. “Painting No. 2” is typical of early transitional modernism, when artists were moving from more descriptive painting into abstraction. The brushwork and palette of “Painting No. 2” show the influence of the early work of European painters Wassily Kandinsky, Paul Cézanne, and Germany’s Blue Rider group. “Elsa,” made three years later, reveals Hartley's full embrace of European abstraction, in particular synthetic cubism. Together, the two paintings demonstrate the impact of European art on Hartley, and, in turn, Hartley’s influence on the formation of American modernism.

The two Hartley paintings, bequeathed by Hudson D. Walker to the Weisman Art Museum in 1978, form part of that museum’s Ione and Hudson D. Walker Collection. While at the Cantor Arts Center, the paintings strengthen the presentation of early modernist work. Both Harley paintings currently hang in the Marie Stauffer Sigall Gallery of early 20th-century art, along with works from the Center’s collection by such artists as Jacques Lipchitz, Elie Nadelman, and Raymond Duchamp-Villon.

The loans of the Hartley paintings are made possible by a generous fund provided by John and Jill Freidenrich. The purpose of this fund is to expand the display of art in the Center galleries through focused loans from other museums, with artworks of particular relevance to the Center’s exhibitions and Stanford’s curriculum. The Hartley loans, available for research by Stanford students and faculty through the 2011–12 academic year, are the first use of this fund.

The Hartley paintings complement the Cantor Arts Center’s upcoming exhibition “The Legend of Rex Slinkard,” on view November 9, 2011 through February 26, 2012 in the museum’s Ruth Levison Halperin Gallery. Hartley and Rex Slinkard (1883–1918), a modernist California artist who studied with Robert Henri and shared a studio with George Bellows, moved in the same artistic and literary circles. Although the two never met—Slinkard’s life was cut short by the influenza epidemic of 1918—Hartley knew of his work and praised it highly.

Hartley wrote, in the foreword to the 1919 catalogue accompanying memorial exhibitions held in honor of the recently deceased Slinkard, that the nation had “lost a true, pure artist—as well as a possible great one.” Hartley paid tribute by referring to the late artist’s reputation as “the legend of Rex Slinkard.” The title of the Center’s exhibition derives from this essay by Hartley.

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