American, 1870 - 1953
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Robert Torchia, “John Marin,” NGA Online Editions, https://purl.org/nga/collection/constituent/2643 (accessed August 02, 2021).
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John Marin was born in Rutherford, New Jersey, the son of an accountant. His mother died shortly after he was born, and he was raised by his maternal grandparents and two aunts in Weehawken, directly across the Hudson River from New York City. He attended the Stevens Institute of Technology in Hoboken for a year, and beginning in 1893 worked for six years as a professional architect before deciding to become an artist. From 1899 to 1901 he studied at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts in Philadelphia, where he initiated a lifelong friendship with the modernist painter
A major event in Marin’s career occurred in 1909, when
By the early 1910s, Marin was based in New York, though he continued to travel widely in New York state and New England. He adapted the avant-garde ideas that had impressed him in Europe—Cézanne’s spare but rich watercolor technique as well as futurism and
Marin spent the summers of 1929 and 1930 in Taos, New Mexico, and produced 100 watercolors that were shown to great acclaim at Stieglitz’s gallery An American Place in 1930 and 1931. Renowned as a watercolorist, in the 1930s he began to work more extensively in oils. In 1936 a retrospective exhibition of Marin’s work was held at the Museum of Modern Art in New York. By this time he was regarded as a major artist, and by the late 1940s he had achieved an extraordinary level of fame. In 1947 another major retrospective was held at the Institute of Modern Art in Boston, after which Look magazine pronounced him “America’s Artist No. 1.” In 1949 a major retrospective exhibition of his oils, watercolors, and etchings was held at the M. H. De Young Memorial Museum in San Francisco. In 1950 Yale University conferred upon Marin an honorary doctor of fine arts degree, as did the University of Maine.
Marin drew his imagery directly from nature, but always sought to capture its spirit and imagery rather than merely imitate it. Although he experimented with nonobjective compositions, he was uncomfortable with total abstraction. Nevertheless, the energy and gestural quality of his work exerted an influence on abstract expressionism. Depressed after the deaths of his wife and Stieglitz, Marin died at his summer home in Addison, Maine, on October 2, 1953, shortly before his 83rd birthday. The many works given to the National Gallery of Art by Marin’s son, John Marin Jr., and daughter-in-law, Norma B. Marin, have made the Gallery an important center for Marin studies.
September 29, 2016