Solitude and Eeriness – Famous American Modernist Marsden Hartley Expressions of Dogtown

Celebrated Dogtown Artist Marsden Hartley was born in Lewiston, Maine (January 4, 1877 – September 2, 1943) and was the youngest of nine children.

Hartley was immensely popular in his time along with other great artists such as Georgia O’Keefe and he created some of the most uniquely powerful modernist expressions by any American artist.

Whether treating the mysticism of Native American cultures, the hardiness of rural Maine, or the military pageantry of pre-World War I Germany, Hartley’s works encompass the defining nature of his subjects, and seek to represent much more than observed reality.

He is best known for his Dogtown series of paintings. His love for the rugged environment in Maine and the solitude of Dogtown’s 3,000 acres and unusual geology inspired Hartley’s artwork. In 1920, this elevated parcel of land in the heart of Cape Ann already had a long and unnerving history and known for its less-than-hospitable terrain and its history as a once-prosperous village turned rural ghetto. Even today there is talk of the place being haunted.

Hartley wrote. “[It is] forsaken and majestically lovely, as if nature had at last formed one spot where she can live for herself alone.”

His Dogtown series of drawings and painting (some shown below) visually express a cross between Easter Island and Stonehenge and are executed with a combination of realism and abstract.

Marsden Hartley, Blueberry Highway, Dogtown | 1931 | Oil on composition board | 18 ¼” x 24” | High Museum of Art, Atlanta, Georgia; Purchase with bequest of Charles Donald Belcher
Marsden Hartley, Blueberry Highway, Dogtown | 1931 | Oil on composition board | 18 ¼” x 24” | High Museum of Art, Atlanta, Georgia; Purchase with bequest of Charles Donald Belcher
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More on Dogtown and it’s colorful history with tales of witches, supernatural sightings, pirates, former slaves, drifters, and the many dogs Revolutionary War widows kept for protection and for which the area was named, can be found out in this recommended book below.

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