Still Life, 1921
Oil on panel
20 by 15¾ inches
Signed Marsden Hartley and dated 1921 on the reverse
Hartley found artistic inspiration in Berlin before World War I, but was forced to return to the US in late 1915. He then traveled from place to place, visiting friends, and hoping to find a subject that would lead his art in a new direction. He spent summer 1916 in Provincetown, Massachusetts, where he adopted a muted palette that was the antithesis of the bold primary colors he had employed in Germany. After Provincetown, Hartley traveled to Bermuda, where he experimented with still lifes of flowers placed before a window — a composition first used by Matisse and the Fauves. When he ended his travels and returned to New York in late 1919, Hartley also returned to floral still lifes.
In Still Life a tall narrow vase is framed by the folds of the curtain behind it. Hartley uses drapery to define the center of the picture and produces an effect similar to that created by the window in the Bermuda paintings. The influence of cubism is evident in the heavily outlined folds of the backdrop and the angular corners that project away from the vase, but Hartley does not allow the image to dissolve entirely into abstraction.