Notable Quotes
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American painter (1877-1943)

A reaction, to be pleasant, must be simple.

MARSDEN HARTLEY, prefatory note, Adventures in the Arts

So easy to travel along with claques and crowds, voicing vociferously the great discoveries of each – How ineffably difficult, voicing the soul of one man.

MARSDEN HARTLEY, letter to Alfred Stieglitz, Jun. 1911

The reading of tourist prospectuses is one of the joys of the world -- it is like operetta in prose -- all so flowery and heavenlike.


Perhaps once on a time I found isolation imperative – I think all chrysalides do – all embryos go for the underside of the leaf in the time of body-change preparing for the final reassertion –resurrection – the establishment of the entity. But now I’ve come up tot the outside of my casements.

MARSDEN HARTLEY, attributed, Marsden Hartley Revisited

Poets must, it seems to me, learn how to use a great many words before they can know how to use a few skilfully. Journalistic verbiage is not fluency.

MARSDEN HARTLEY, "The Business of Poetry"

I have always said that you do not see a thing until you look away from it. In other words, an object or a fact in nature has not become itself until it has been projected in the realm of the imagination. Therefore what has been retained in the mind’s eye is what lives. I have seldom or never worked from nature for this reason and so what I see is what I believe to be true, and that becomes the truism of the creative artist.

MARSDEN HARTLEY, Is Art Necessary?

I remember almost nothing of my actual mother, though I suspect that like most men I was haunted by the image and probably the callings from the void.


What I have to express is not handled with words. It must "come" to the observer. It must carry its influence over the mind of the individual into that region of him which is more than the mind. The pictures must reach inward into the deeper experiences of the beholder — and mind you they are in no sense religious tracts — there is no story to them or literature — no morals — they are merely artistic expressions of mystical states — these in themselves being my own personal motives as drawn from either special experiences or aggregate ones.

MARSDEN HARTLEY, letter to Alfred Stieglitz, Sep. 28, 1913

Men who are highly imaginative, create by feeling what they do not or cannot know. It is the sixth sense of the creator.

MARSDEN HARTLEY, Adventures in the Arts

Photography was an interesting foil to the kind of veracity that painting is supposed to express.

MARSDEN HARTLEY, Adventures in the Arts

Until a man has given up himself he has given up nothing.

MARSDEN HARTLEY, letter to Alfred Stieglitz, Jun. 1911

I never read a fairy story in my childhood. I always had the feeling as a child, that fairy stories were for grown-ups and were best understood by them, and for that reason I think it must have been that I postponed them.

MARSDEN HARTLEY, Adventures in the Arts

We are most original when we are most like life. Life is the natural thing. Interpretation is the factitious.

MARSDEN HARTLEY, "The Business of Poetry"

I see the possibility of being "made new" again and the gift of rebirth is all that lets anyone really live.... The great secret ... is never to get stuck, imprisoned in common social patterns. They always paralyse the real quality of life – the "going onward" is all that matters, and the dead moments in one’s life through trying to be a unit in any society or social concept are terrifying really.

MARSDEN HARTLEY, letter to Adelaide Kuntz, Sep. 7, 1933

The idea of modernity is but a new attachment of things universal – a fresh relationship to the courses of the sun and to the living swing of the earth – a new fire of affection for the living essence present everywhere.

MARSDEN HARTLEY, statement for catalogue of 1914 exhibition at 291

All things that are living are expression and therefore part of the inherent symbology of life. Art, therefore, that is encumbered with excessive symbolism is extraneous, and from my point of view, useless art. Anyone who understands life needs no handbook of poetry or philosophy to tell him what it is.

MARSDEN HARTLEY, Adventures in Art

I would like to fix it so that I didn't see pictures more than twice a year and forget 'em -- I am that sick of what they are and what they mean. All you have to do to get like I am is to have tried to make them and heard about them for twenty-five years, and then you will understand. I went to the museum yesterday only because it is in my language and it is well every now and then to give a good eyesweep over a museum just to recall the different ways of speaking the language, and there is never a time when you don't get some new point of view from the old things.


It is never difficult to see images – when the principle of the image is embedded in the soul.

MARSDEN HARTLEY, attributed, Marsden Hartley (Gail R. Scott)

Art, like life, has had to begin all over again, for the very end of the world had been made visible at last. The artist may look safely over an utterly new horizon, which is the only encouragement the artist of today can hope for.

MARSDEN HARTLEY, Adventures in the Arts

My work embodies little visions of the great intangible.... Some will say he’s gone mad – others will look and say he's looked in at the lattices of Heaven and come back with the madness of splendor on him.

MARSDEN HARTLEY, letter to Seamus O'Sheel, Oct. 10, 1908

If you want the cheapest picture of life known to mankind go to Monte Carlo. Sit about under the trees and observe the saddest of all types of human beings -- men and women -- the saddest the women -- who are past forty and on to seventy -- eyes staring into space, cheeks hollowed with anxiety -- the women clinging to their diamonds, being all they have left.


Art in America is like a patent medicine, or a vacuum cleaner. It can hope for no success until ninety million people know what it is.

MARSDEN HARTLEY, Adventures in Art

Expression is for one knowing its own pivot. Every expressor relates solely to himself – that is the concern of the individualist.

MARSDEN HARTLEY, statement for catalogue of Forum exhibition, 1916


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