Art with a capital “A” is constantly being imitated by and crossbred with popular and commercial art. Anyone who grew up with the children’s books and magazines of the 1940’s and 1950’s will experience a shock of recognition on turning the pages of this reassessment of John Marin. Marin, not in fashion today, was much acclaimed and widely influential during his lifetime; in a 1948 poll in LOOK magazine, he was named America’s “Artist No. 1.” Ruth E. Fine, a printmaker and curator of modern prints and drawings at the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C., organized the exhibition on which this book is based. As well as providing illuminating analysis of Marin’s watercolors and oils, etchings and drawings, Fine conveys his quirky, independent spirit, quoting frequently from his elliptical, poetic writings.
Marin was born in 1870 in Rutherford, New Jersey. Surprisingly, given his prolific output, he did not begin a full-time career as an artist until he was thirty-four (he had prepared for a career as an architect). A five-year stay in Europe between 1905 and 1910, much of it spent in Paris, played an important role in the development of his style, as did his close association with photographer Alfred Stieglitz (the two met in 1909 in Marin’s Paris studio). Establishing himself as a major American artist, Marin continued to produce vital work until shortly before his death in 1953.
With 175 color reproductions and 125 black-and-white illustrations (including photographs of Marin and his circle), this volume represents the full range of Marin’s work: the early etchings, the angular cityscapes of the 1920’s and 1930’s, the New England watercolors, the abstract renderings of sea and storm. The text is supplemented by notes, a bibliography, an index, and a detailed and very useful chronology.