Artist Profile

  • john marin
  • 4
  • john marin

John Marin

  • Lived:
  • 1870-1953
  • Worked:
  • New York, Maine, France
  • Style:
  • Modernist, Landscape, Coastal View, Etching
  • John Marin was born in Rutherford, New Jersey in 1870. His father was a public accountant; his mother died only nine days after his birth. He was taken to his maternal grandparents with whom he lived in Weehawken, New Jersey. His grandparents, with their son and two daughters were the only parents Marin was to know; it has been suggested that his father seems to have ignored him. As a child of seven or eight Marin began to sketch and when he was a teenager he had completed his earliest watercolors. His education in the schools of New Jersey was interspersed with summers of hunting, fishing and sketching; he traveled in the Catskills, and as far away as Wisconsin and Minnesota. But formal training was almost incidental to his development as an artist.

    He is to America what Paul Cezanne was to France - an innovator who helped to oppose the influence of the narrative painters, the illustrators who were more interested in subject than form, in surface than substance. Marin brought to his work a combination of values which, at the turn of the century, was unique in this country: an aliveness of touch, colors that have both sparkle and solidity, and forms that are vibrant with an energy characteristic of our age.

    Marin established himself as a practicing architect. In the early 1890s, he worked for four architects and by 1893 had designed six houses in Union Hill, New Jersey. At the age of twenty-eight, he decided to become a professional artist and studied briefly at the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts in Philadelphia and the Art Students League in New York City.

    As a watercolorist he had no equal. He used this fluid, spontaneous medium to abstract from objects - skyscrapers, boats, mountains and seas - a simplified anatomy of color and form and to define the pulsation of stresses and movements in the relationship of objects. It was a great disappointment, all his life, that his oil paintings did not achieve the popularity that his watercolors did.

    From 1905 to 1910 he worked in Europe, where he was influenced by Whistler's watercolors. It was Alfred Stieglitz, Marin's lifetime friend and dealer, whose firm faith in his genius made his position in the art world possible. He developed a distinctive style that he used most characteristically in powerful watercolors of the Maine coast. During the 1920s he provided the dominant force in the movement away from naturalistic representation towards an art of expressive semi-abstraction.

    He married Marie Jane Hughes after he returned to New York. They had one son, who grew up to run his father's considerable affairs. Marin continued to work at the same steady fast pace as long as he lived. Since 1908 he had produced 1700 paintings, an average of forty a year. He had made the frames for them as well. At the age of seventy-nine, he began to taper off from the days when he painted one hundred watercolors in a summer. He died in 1953.

    Written and submitted by Jean Ershler Schatz, artist and researcher from Laguna Woods, California.

    Sources include:
    Metropolitan Museum of Art Miniatures: Masterpieces in the Philadelphia Museum of Art
    Oxford Dictionary of Art, Oxford University Press, 1988, edited by Jan Chilvers, Harold Osborne and Dennis Farr, consultant
    From the internet,
    Robert Hughes in Time magazine, February 22, 1971