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Currier Museum of Art acquires important late oil painting by John Marin
John Marin, Movement in Red, 1946, oil on canvas, Currier Museum of Art, Museum Purchase: The Henry Melville Fuller Acquisition Fund, © 2014 Estate of John Marin / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York.

MANCHESTER, NH.- The Currier Museum of Art announced the acquisition of an important late oil painting by American John Marin (1870-1953). Movement in Red (1946) reveals Marin’s bold technique, which conveys a dynamic vision of boats sailing off the coast of Cape Split, Maine. It is on view in the Currier’s Modern Gallery.

“The Currier has a long tradition of thoughtfully acquiring important works of art that support our collection,” said Susan Strickler, Currier CEO and director. “Marin’s stunning painting joins major paintings in the Museum’s collection by his contemporaries Georgia O’Keeffe, Arthur Dove, Marsden Hartley and Charles Sheeler. They offer our community an exceptional view of one of America’s most important and innovative artists of the first half of the 20th century.”

Although the composition is highly abstracted, the sailboats in the lower half of the picture and the gull in the foreground identify the scene as a seascape. Marin used broad gestures to create the painting’s definitive brushstrokes that suggest the dynamic forces of wind and wave. Swirls of yellow capture the movement of the sun through the Maine day, while lines and rectangles in the middle of the painting are Marin’s way of adding structure to a scene that seems otherwise compressed into a single, flat plane. Marin himself made the frame that surrounds the canvas, and decorated it with a motif that suggests an anchor chain.

Marin created a series of paintings during the last decade of his life using other colors as the subject. He stated that, in these paintings, he was expressing the movement of paint, rather than the movement of objects. Representative of his late oils, Movement in Red offers a historical launching point for the Abstract Expressionist movement to follow in the late 1940s and 1950s, as seen in the Currier’s Joan Mitchell painting, Cous-cous (1961-62), on view in the Contemporary Gallery.

Marin in the Currier Collection
Another recently acquired Marin work, the watercolor Hondo Valley, New Mexico (1929) is on view near Movement in Red. It demonstrates Marin’s inclination to fragment the landscape for expressive purposes. Marin simplifies the composition into a series of flat chromatic planes. Color, gestural brushwork and directional lines become the primary means of depicting the dramatic forces of wind and weather.

Marin’s Five Islands, Stonington (1921) is a masterful watercolor given to the Currier by artist Paul Strand and his wife, Hazel. The Currier also owns two Marin etchings from his time in Venice, Italy: Par la Fenetre Venezia (about 1915) and Sestiere de Dorso Duro, Venice (1907).

John Marin
One of the few American modernists to achieve widespread recognition, John Marin studied at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts from 1899-1901. After spending some time at the Art Students’ league in New York, he left for Europe. In 1908, while in Paris, Marin met photographer Edward Steichen. Steichen introduced his work to fellow photographer Alfred Stieglitz, who was greatly impressed and began to support him in 1911. Stieglitz also exhibited and promoted Marin’s contemporaries, Georgia O’Keeffe, Arthur Dove and Marsden Hartley.

Initially grounded in impressionism, Marin’s style became increasingly abstract following the 1913 Armory Show in New York City, which brought European modern art to the United States. In 1914, Marin turned his attention to landscapes after a visit to coastal Maine. While best known for his watercolors, in the 1940s, he changed his medium of choice to oil. His use of oils set the stage for emerging abstract expressionists such as Jackson Pollock, Mark Rothko and Willem de Kooning.

Marin’s work is in the collections of the New York’s Museum of Modern Art and Metropolitan Museum of Art, Boston’s Museum of Fine Arts and the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C.

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