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John Marin: Prints and Watercolors from the Collection

June 23–August 26, 1984

John Marin (1870-1953), perhaps best known for his innovative city and seascapes in watercolor, first gained recognition for his accomplishments as a graphic artist. And although he would cease printmaking for years at a time to devote himself to painting, the artist often returned to etching as a way of working out graphically a new approach to his work, drawn to the spontaneity the medium allowed. This Museum is fortunate to have the master set of his etchings and an excellent group of watercolors. Some 60 etchings and 27 watercolors will be displayed in the newly refurbished Print and Drawing Gallery on the ground floor, which will open this spring. Marin did not find himself as an artist until he traveled to Paris in 1905 and began etching. His early efforts--picturesque street scenes, views of cathedrals and monuments, and reflections on waterways--were strongly influenced by Whistler in both subject and style. He soon gained confidence in the techniques of etching, however, and began developing his own distinctive approach. Marin returned to New York in 1911 and was captivated by the energy of the city. He wrote, "I see great forces at work; great movements . . . influences of one mass on another greater or smaller mass. Feelings are aroused which give me the desire to express the reactions of these 'pull forces'". This desire is expressed in a freer draftsmanship, impressionistic use of monotype, and the reduction of elements in the composition to basic forms. Marin's etchings of the Brooklyn Bridge, the Woolworth building, and other monumental structures no longer evoke a romantic past but celebrate the dynamism of the new. In his later work in Maine, where he began using dark slashing lines to accentuate areas of land and seascape, Marin continued to apply his special combination of formalism and expressionism to record his emotional response to the world around him.

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