Oil on pulp board
31.6 x 41.4 cm
Purchased with the assistance of a Movable Cultural Property grant accorded by the Department of Canadian Heritage under the terms of the Cultural Property Export and Import Act and with funds from the Jane Shaw Law Bequest, 2011
The American modernist painter Marsden Hartley (1877-1943) spent two summers in Nova Scotia, in 1935 and 1936. While living in the community of Blue Rocks, on Nova Scotia’s South Shore, he befriended a local family named Mason.
The defining event for Marsden Hartley was the tragic deaths at sea of
the Mason’s two sons, Alty and Donny, and their cousin Allen, in 1936. Stormy Sea 3
was completed in Blue
Rocks shortly after the deaths of the young men in a powerful North
Atlantic gale. For several years afterwards Hartley returned to the theme of the sea’s
harshness in paintings and writings.
As evidenced by his letters, this sojourn in rural Nova Scotia was of immense importance to him as an artist. In 1936 he wrote, “I paint in a rich low key and for the first time have really been identified with the sea…” This identification with the sea, and with his native New England, was of defining importance for Marsden Hartley. For the rest of his life he was known as a painter of Maine’s rugged coast, of New England fishing villages and people. That desire to be close to a more authentic way of living was a common thread in American modernism, and Hartley was by no means alone in his desire to live a simpler, truer life in a rural part of his home country.