Marsden Hartley

American (1877–1943)

Shell

1929

Oil on composition board

Collection of The John and Mable Ringling Museum of Art, the State Art Museum of Florida; Gift of Mr. and Mrs. William L. Moise

TR22.2006

Like O’Keeffe, Hartley was among the artists patronized by the dealer and photographer Alfred Stieglitz. While living in France, he made a group of still lifes: flowers, fruit, and shells, often in monochrome palettes of blues and pinks. Shell recalls O’Keeffe’s subjects in its magnification and singularity, but its scale alludes to Hartley’s wish to produce more salable works. This painting remained in the artist’s hands until his death.

Hartley’s magnification of nature relates to the deep spirituality found in much of his art. That spirituality drew on the writings of the American philosopher Emerson, connecting God with nature and praising “all things both great and small.”

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