Art @ Home: Marsden Hartley

Make a New Friend: Marsden Hartley

When you make friends with a work of art at the museum, you begin a friendship that will grow and grow, just like when you make friends with a person. And, you’ll discover that whenever you spend time with your friend, you’ll learn new things about what you see and how you feel about it.

Right now, the Museum is closed to the general public, but we can still make friends with works of art there. We’re going to use a picture to get to know City Point, Vinalhaven by Marsden Hartley.

Marsden Hartley, City Point, Vinalhaven, 1937-1938. Oil on paperboard. 18 1/4 x 24 3/8 in. (46 x 62 cm). Gift of the Alex Katz Foundation

A couple of things to know about this work of art and the artist:

  • Marsden Hartley was born in Lewiston, Maine, in 1877. He traveled the world and created many different types of paintings to share what he was seeing and experiencing—landscapes, still lifes, and abstract portraits filled with symbols and personal imagery.
  • Many of his landscapes were inspired by places in Maine—including the island of Vinalhaven, which is a little more than an hour-long ferry ride from Rockland. 
  • In City Point, Vinalhaven, the artist painted much of it in an impasto style; that means the paint is thickly applied so it stands out from the surface. With the impasto technique, you often can see the marks made by the paintbrush or in this case, the palette knife, used to spread the paint on the surface. People who have studied this painting have even found the artist’s fingerprint impressions in the clouds.

One of my favorite things to do during the summer is to look for rocks on different beaches in Maine.

During the summer of 2019, I went to a beach where the water rippling over the rocks made a beautiful sound. I found amazing rocks, and this weird, blobby red thing on a beach near Acadia National Park.

And, inspired by this painting, I took a ferry ride to Vinalhaven and hiked along a trail to take this picture, which I think looks like the view that Marsden Hartley might have seen.

Let’s get inspired by Marsden Hartley and create our own landscape, a picture of a place. You may have noticed that one of the first things you notice are the rocks—they really stand out because he outlined them in thick black paint, drawing your eye to their large, solid forms that are prominently placed in the foreground, the part of the painting that is closest to you.

You can draw your landscape on a piece of paper, or you can create a collage by cutting out pieces of paper to represent objects and gluing them to a heavier piece of paper like cardstock, or cardboard. However you create your landscape, try working in the style of Marsden Hartley by adding a thick black outline to the objects you really want people to notice. For my collage, I tore paper to create shapes; after gluing them down, I used an oil pastel to create my heavy lines; crayons, markers, and sharpies also would work.

Have fun being creative—we can’t wait to see how this work inspires you! Have a parent tag @ColbyMuseum on Facebook or Instagram using the hashtag #ArtAtHome, and we might share your creation with our followers.

Inspiration by Kristin Bergquist, Mirken Curator of Education and Engagement