John Hartman, Marsden Hartley’s Studio, Blue Rocks, NS, 2011, Watercolour on Arches paper, 38.0 x 56.5 cm. Gift of the Artist, Penetanguishene, Ontario, 2014, with assistance from the Fred and Elizabeth Fountain Endowment for Contemporary Art

Blue Rocks: Gerald Ferguson, Marsden Hartley, and John Hartman

Saturday, 19 May 2018 to Thursday, 11 October 2018

May, 19 – October 11, 2018

The American modernist painter Marsden Hartley 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. 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 died in 1943) 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. 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. For several years afterwards Hartley returned to the theme of the sea’s harshness in paintings and writings. His Stormy Sea paintings were completed in Blue Rocks shortly after the deaths of the young men in a powerful North Atlantic gale.

Gerald Ferguson, painter and conceptual artist whose own interest in Hartley led to the exhibition and book Marsden Hartley in Nova Scotia. Here, we witness a conversation with the the past, with other artists through this kind of quoting and requoting, and, in this case the value is in the establishment of a whole.

John Hartman adds his own voice to that conversation. He builds on Ferguson’s somewhat documentary examination of Hartley’s time in Nova Scotia, and reimagines it through updated painterly images. The collection offers an opportunity to trace the full circle between each of these artists’ artistic exploration of a single theme, Blue Rocks, Nova Scotia.

Supported by

FBM Architecture - Interior Design