John Marin Biography

John Marin




John Marin, born on December 23, 1870 in Rutherford, New Jersey, was an American painter and printmaker especially known for his expressionistic watercolor seascapes of Maine and his views of Manhattan in watercolor and etching. After working as an architectural draftsman, Marin studied painting at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts in Philadelphia between 1899 and 1901 with Thomas Anshutz and William Merritt Chase and at the Art Students League of New York City for a few weeks in 1905. Later in 1905 he went to Europe studying briefly in the atelier of Auguste J. Delecluse and at the Académie Julian.

In Paris he met the photographer Edward Steichen, who referred his work to Alfred Stieglitz, whose gallery in New York was an important showcase for avant-garde art. Impressed, Stieglitz visited Marin's Paris studio, and this encounter led to an exhibition at Stieglitz's Gallery 291 in New York. In Paris he exhibited at the Salon des Indépendants and the Salon d'Automne, and produced a series of etchings that reflected the influence of another American artist living in Europe, James McNeill Whistler.

Marin remained largely unaware of the new movements in European art until 1910, when he returned to New York. There, at Alfred Stieglitz’s “291” gallery and at the Armory Show in New York in 1913, where he exhibited, he became familiar with Cubism and the various schools of German Expressionism. Influenced by those movements, his own style matured into a very personal form of expressionism.

In 1912 Marin married Marie Hughes and they settled in Cliffside, New Jersey. He made his first of what would become regular annual trips to Maine in 1914, and shortly thereafter bought an island at Small Point. Marin was fascinated by the Maine seacoast and landscape, which became a major source of inspiration for the rest of his life.

After Stieglitz closed Gallery 291 in 1917, he used his influence to help Marin. His first retrospective was held in 1920 at Daniel Gallery in New York; in 1925 Stieglitz included him in the exhibition of "Seven Americans" held at the Anderson Gallery, New York; and in December of that year Stieglitz opened his second establishment, the Intimate Gallery, with a retrospective of Marin's work.

Artists usually employ watercolor to produce only delicate, transparent effects, but Marin’s brilliant command of the medium enabled him to render the monumental power of New York and the relentless surge of the sea on the Maine coast. His concern with force and motion led him to produce works such as Lower Manhattan (1922) and Off York Island, Maine (1922), in which objective reality is hardly recognizable amid the activity of the canvas.

Marin spent the summers of 1929 and 1930 in Taos, New Mexico, and produced 100 watercolors that were shown to great acclaim at Stieglitz’s gallery An American Place in 1930 and 1931. He had a retrospective show in 1936 at the Museum of Modern Art. Late in life Marin achieved tremendous prestige as an American painter, an elder statesman of American art. In 1950, he was honored by the University of Maine and Yale University with honorary degrees of Doctor of Fine Arts.

John Marin died of a stroke on October 2, 1953 in Cape Split, Maine.