Camera Work: A Photographic Quarterly — 1914 (Heft 45)

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The Hartley Exhibition, January twelfth to February fourteenth, com-
prised the work done, during the past two years, by this American in Paris
and Berlin, he having gone abroad after his exhibit at “291” in 1912. His
new canvases show not only a radical departure from the work done by him
before he went abroad, but are an attempt, heretofore untried, to express
metaphysics pictorially. This Hartley has endeavored to accomplish through
the use of symbols and the abstract significance of line and color. The artist
speaks for himself in one of the three Forewords which accompanied the
catalogue of his exhibition. The three Forewords are herewith reprinted for
the benefit of the readers of Camera Work:

Marsden Hartley’s pictures are to be seen here in these rooms—at “291”—from January
twelfth until February fifth. By way of any introduction to them “what further may be sought
for or declared?” Everyone is free to look at the pictures and everyone will find as much or
as little as he brings to them. If there is a psychical “rapport” between himself and the pictures
he may be intensified in his own being by their intensity, but he will not be added to. And if
they communicate nothing to him he may be left as cold as before he saw them; but nothing
will be taken from him by their presence. By the feeling that they express they may arouse
in him his own feelings—which go by so many different names; each man according to his own
particular code.
And so of what use to write down the appreciation by one person; in one particular code;
one personal interpretation; of Marsden Hartley’s pictures? What anyone says of any beau-
tiful thing must always be partial and incomplete; of small circumference and outlined by one
personality. One man might say: “Hartley understood the mountains; he learned their
cruelty; their eternal aloofness and separateness; their immutable silence. He learned their
last secret, the secret that perhaps they are not there at all—which can be learned of all things
in the same way—by penetrating into them.” And another man might say: “Marsden Hartley
loved the mountains. They were not silent to him; they told him about beauty and its inten-
sity; they melted, for him, into life forms which he translated into crystals of art.” And so on
and on. And as many more as would speak of the things Hartley painted. And it would be the
same with those who would try and interpret what he painted. One would point out the religious
ardor and the profound and unconscious symbolism; or another would call attention to the
meticulous calculation in the balancing of forms and the juxtaposition of tones. One would
see his individualism; another would see his universality. Still another would declare that he
had made visible the wild poignant flavor of the Americas. And they might all be right and
yet no one of them nor all of them could enclose this artist’s vision, translating it anew into
the medium of language, any more than any one has ever been able to do that for any artist.
Pictures must be seen and felt directly in order to be received. No other introduction
is necessary; or can be anything more than futile. As futile as the description of music.
And so Marsden Hartley’s pictures may be seen at “291” from January twelfth until
February fifth.
Mabel Dodge.

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