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Becoming John Marin: Modernist at Work

January 26 – April 22, 2018

This exhibition was organized by the Arkansas Arts Center

Featuring never-before-exhibited drawings and watercolors from the Arkansas Arts Center Collection, Becoming John Marin: Modernist at Work explores the artist’s transformation from intuitive draftsman to innovative watercolorist and etcher. This revelatory new look at Marin’s work affords a unique opportunity to see finished watercolors, etchings and oil paintings reunited with the sketches on which they were based for the first time outside the artist’s studio.



Visit becomingjohnmarin.org for a dive into the life and work of John Marin. This newly developed website treats the Arts Center's collection of Marin works to in-depth analysis, including images from other collections, timelines and interactive maps.

As the second largest repository of John Marin works in the world, the Arkansas Arts Center’s 290-work collection is surpassed only by that of the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C. Becoming John Marin: Modernist at Work features 79 works from this exceptional collection, donated to the Arts Center by the artist’s daughter-in-law, Norma Marin, in 2013, and recently conserved with support from The Henry Luce Foundation, Luce Fund in American Art. They will be shown alongside 33 distinguished Marin works loaned by outstanding public and private collections, including Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art, the National Gallery of Art, the Philadelphia Museum of Art, the Columbus Museum of Art, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Colby College Museum of Art, and the Phillips Collection, among others.

Beginning with his 1909 debut exhibition of watercolors at Alfred Stieglitz's 291 Gallery in New York, until his death in 1953, Marin was a major force among the cutting-edge modern artists who gathered around Stieglitz. The artist was best known for his lively, idiosyncratic watercolors, etchings and oil paintings of the disparate worlds of gritty New York City and coastal Maine.

In 1948, a Look magazine survey of museum directors, curators, and art critics selected Marin as the greatest painter in America. But Marin's early years had not foreshadowed any such recognition. Until age 40, he was unsure of how he wanted to make his living. The young Marin shifted between working for a wholesale notions house, training and working as an architect in his native New Jersey, and attending the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, and later the Art Students League in New York. From 1905 to 1909, he lived in Paris and made picturesque etchings of European architecture for the tourist trade. But one overriding passion was always there for Marin – drawing. He said, "I just drew. I drew every chance I got."

While in Paris, Marin was discovered by Edward Steichen, photographer and talent scout for Alfred Stieglitz. Settling in New York, Marin showed work annually at Stieglitz’s galleries – 291, The Intimate Gallery, and An American Place. Stieglitz became Marin's dealer, promoter, mentor and friend. Marin's drawings occasionally appeared in exhibitions, but most were informal, private documents made for his own creative purposes. In rural places, where he could work undisturbed and simply make a watercolor on the spot without a preparatory sketch, he made few drawings. But on the teeming sidewalks of New York, he often drew on inexpensive 8-by-10 inch writing pads the artist could afford to buy in large numbers. Marin accumulated piles of sketchbooks that he consulted as sources for finished works he made in his studio.

Marin – who was trained as an architect – made unexpectedly precise drawings of Manhattan’s towering skyscrapers and bridges. Other drawings were experiments in visually fragmenting forms to create expressive modernist compositions. But most of Marin's New York drawings were quick, vigorous notations recording the forces and motions he felt in the buildings and figures around him. He caught fleeting glimpses of rushed pedestrians or flying trapeze artists performing under the big top. The exhibition also follows the artist to lesser-known places – the cliffs outside New York City known as the Palisades – and to lesser-known subjects – portraits of friends and family and charming drawings of zoo and circus animals.

Click here to view programs in conjunction with Becoming John Marin: Modernist at Work.

Visit BecomingJohnMarin.org



Interactive Gallery Experiences


BeaconSageThe Arkansas Arts Center’s new beacon program will enhance the visitor experience in Becoming John Marin: Modernist at Work. Equipped with only their smartphones, visitors will be able to access interactive maps, timelines, stories and images to encourage a deeper understanding of Marin’s artistic process. Visitors will receive a notification in the mobile app when they approach a work – or group of works – driving them to additional content to supplement the gallery wall text and image labels. Patrons can then choose to view that content in real time or save it in the app to view later. Throughout the building, beacons will also allow visitors to access surveys, redeem discounts and more.

Download on the App Store Android App on Google Play

 

Featured Works from the Exhibition


Walking Bear, 1903-1905, graphite on beige paper, 3 3/4 x 6 1/2 in., Arkansas Arts Center Foundation Collection: Gift of Norma B. Marin, New York, New York, 2013.018.043

Woolworth Building Under Construction, 1912, watercolor and graphite on textured watercolor paper, 19 5/8 x 15 3/8 in., Arkansas Arts Center Foundation Collection: Gift of Norma B. Marin, New York, New York, 2013.018.011

New York, City Hall Park, circa 1910s, graphite on paper, 10 x 8 in. (25.4 x 20.32 cm.) Arkansas Arts Center Foundation Collection: Gift of Norma B. Marin, New York, New York. 2013.018.278

Manhattan Skyline from the River, 1909-1912, watercolor over graphite on textured watercolor paper, 11 1/2 x 12 3/4 in. (29.21 x 32.38 cm.) Arkansas Arts Center Foundation Collection: Gift of Norma B. Marin, New York, New York. 2013.018.152

Municipal Building, 1912, graphite on paper, 10 x 8 in., Arkansas Arts Center Foundation Collection: Gift of Norma B. Marin, New York, New York, 2013.018.273

On Mount Desert, Maine, 1920, watercolor on textured watercolor paper, 14 x 16 ¾ in., Arkansas Arts Center Foundation Collection: Gift of Norma B. Marin, New York, New York, 2013.018.142

Blue Shark, 1922, watercolor and charcoal on textured watercolor paper, 12 1/8 x 16 1/8 in. (30.80 x 40.96 cm.) Arkansas Arts Center Foundation Collection: Gift of Norma B. Marin, New York, New York. 2013.018.085

Buildings, Downtown New York, circa 1925, watercolor and graphite on board, 6 x 5 in. (15.24 x 12.7 cm.), Arkansas Arts Center Foundation Collection: Gift of Norma B. Marin, New York, New York. 2013.018.163

Nymphs and Sea, 1941, watercolor and charcoal on light rag paper, 7 1/2 x 9 1/2 in. (19.05 x 24.13 cm.) Arkansas Arts Center Foundation Collection: Gift of Norma B. Marin, New York, New York. 2013.018.001

Landscape, Ramapo Mountains, New Jersey, 1942, watercolor and charcoal on textured watercolor paper, 14 3/4 x 17 1/8 in. (37.46 x 43.50 cm.) Arkansas Arts Center Foundation Collection: Gift of Norma B. Marin, New York, New York. 2013.018.139

Trapeze Artists, circa 1944, graphite and watercolor on paper with linen surface, 6 1/4 x 10 1/8 in. (15.87 x 25.72 cm.) Arkansas Arts Center Foundation Collection: Gift of Norma B. Marin, New York, New York. 2013.018.002

The Three Pines, Blueberry Barrens, Washington County, Maine, 1952, graphite and pastel on tracing paper, 8 11/16 x 11 1/2 in. (22.07 x 29.21 cm.) Arkansas Arts Center Foundation Collection: Gift of Norma B. Marin, New York, New York. 2013.018.222

Sponsored by


The Henry Luce Foundation,

Luce Fund in American Art

The Arkansas Arts Center Foundation

Windgate Charitable Foundation



In Memory of John R. Fletcher by Judy W. Fletcher

Laura Sandage Harden and Lon Clark

JCT Trust

Philip R. Jonsson Foundation



Holleman & Associates, P.A.

Barbara House

Mid-Southern Watercolorists



Arkansas Arts Center programs are supported in part by: the City of Little Rock; the Little Rock Convention and Visitors Bureau; the City of North Little Rock; Arkansas Arts Center Board of Trustees; and the Arkansas Arts Council, an agency of the Department of Arkansas Heritage, and the National Endowment for the Arts.

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