Van Gogh •
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Marsden Hartley was born in Lewiston, Maine. His family soon moved to Cleveland, where he went to school and studied art, privately.
After winning a scholarship to the Cleveland School of Art, he studied with Cullen Yates and Nina Waldeck. He continued his studies in New York between 1900 and 1901 at the Chase School and the National Academy of Design. He then went to Maine and painted by himself until 1908. For the next nine years, he passed through a number of experimental styles under the influence of the powerful European movements of the period. He began, in 1908, with academically Impressionist works, "stitched in color." In 1909, at his first and unsuccessful one-man show at Alfred Steiglitz' "291" Gallery, he presented more formal works, exhibiting a rhythmically expressionistic use of paint, much like that of van Gogh's, but darker in tonality. He went to Germany in 1912 and during his stay abroad first experimented with Cubism, though he later adopted a freer style showing the influence of Kandinsky and the Blaue Reiter school.
By 1915, he had arrived at a style that combined decorative Cubism with the early lyrical abstraction of Kandinsky's. He was using a wide, brilliant palette and showing evidence of German militarism in repeated symbols that were often placed in flat areas of glaring color set off by ragged black patches. This very brief period was succeeded by an equally brief one of Constructivist canvases, pastels and neutral tones, with geometrically simple forms, held subtly together in an elegant and forcefully simple manner. Hartley then rediscovered Cezanne, in 1926, and evolved an emphatically decorative style that used an enameled surface. Hartley received a Guggenheim Fellowship in 1931 and gave up his European travels for trips in the United States until his retirement to Maine in 1933. By 1931 he was painting in his final and most important manner, a simplified expressionism, bold in outline, vividly contrasting in color, and rugged in impact.