The Arkansas Arts Center, the state’s leader in international, visual, and performing arts, is proud to announce it has received a spectacular gift from Norma B. Marin of 290 watercolors and drawings by the great American modern artist John Marin (1870 – 1953).
“This is a very important gift to the Arkansas Arts Center and reinforces our long-standing commitment to the collection, preservation, and display of works on paper,” said Arkansas Arts Center executive director Todd Herman, Ph.D. “This large group of Marin drawings and watercolors adds great depth to an already strong collection of drawings by American and European modern artists. We are grateful to Norma Marin and the estate for entrusting these works to the Arkansas Arts Center.”
Marin is best known for his luminous watercolors of urban structures, landscapes, and seascapes. Norma Marin, who administers the artist’s estate, is the widow of John Marin, Jr., the artist’s son. This gift, together with several works by the artist already in the collection, establishes the Arkansas Arts Center as the second largest repository of works by John Marin in the world. The Arts Center’s collection is surpassed only by that of the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C.
“I am thrilled that this collection of my father-in-law's watercolors and drawings is going to the Arkansas Arts Center, where it will give people a deeper understanding of his work,” said Norma Marin. “The Arts Center has a long history of collecting and exhibiting great American works on paper on paper, so I feel like we've found the perfect home for them.”
This stunning gift ranges across Marin’s career, including every major period and most major subjects of his work. The earliest drawings in the collection are architectural renderings and drawings of the artist’s native New Jersey and of Philadelphia, where he studied at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts. The collection then follows Marin through his years in Paris just after the turn of the century and his return to America as a modernist. The artist’s best known subjects from the heart of his career–depictions of Maine and of New York skyscrapers and bridges–are beautifully explored. More unusual subjects for Marin, such as portraits, nudes, zoo animals, horses, and scenes of the circus, are unusually well represented.
“In addition to the beautiful finished watercolors, the collection includes many working drawings,” said Curator of Drawings, Ann Prentice Wagner, Ph.D. “They give us valuable insights into Marin’s creative process. The on-the-spot sketches are priceless. They capture the artist’s initial ideas about subjects he went on to paint and depict in prints - like the Brooklyn Bridge and the New York skyline. A sketch for Marin’s Woolworth Building watercolors from the 1913 Armory Show sent shivers down my spine. Rare topics, like the marvelous zoo animals and circus scenes, open doors to lesser-known aspects of the artist.”
Marin stands as one of the leading figures of American modernism in the first half of the twentieth century. He was part of the elite group of American avant-garde artists known as “the Stieglitz circle” because they were promoted by the famous photographer and advocate of modern art, Alfred Stieglitz. Between 1909 and 1946, Stieglitz showed Marin’s art regularly in his New York City galleries: The Little Galleries of the Photo-Secession (known as 291), the space known as “The Room” at the Anderson Galleries, The Intimate Gallery, and American Place. Marin was therefore one of the groundbreaking figures who established the United States as a center for modern art. The artist’s acclaim as a modernist began with his first show at 291, in 1909, and continued for the remainder of his life. In 1948, Look magazine held a survey in which Marin was voted the number one painter in the United States. Marin’s work continues to be celebrated in publications and exhibitions around the United States.
The Arkansas Arts Center is now planning a major exhibition with the proposed title John Marin (1870-1953): Modernist at Work. It will feature many of the drawings and watercolors in the gift. This exhibition, tentatively scheduled for 2016, will follow the artist’s entire creative career and examine many of the main topics he depicted. It will also examine some of the more unusual topics that are rarely seen elsewhere. For instance, there is a charming series of drawings of bears. The drawings and watercolors on view will illuminate the artist’s development and his working methods. This exhibition will be accompanied by a catalogue authored by Ann Prentice Wagner.
As one of the most significant collections of American modern and contemporary works on paper, the Arkansas Arts Center is an ideal home for this outstanding assemblage of John Marin’s works on paper. The Arts Center already holds an important collection of works by artists at the center of the Alfred Stieglitz Circle, including two drawings and a watercolor by Marin, Arthur Dove’s Sketchbook “E “and a charcoal drawing by the same artist, a pastel and a charcoal drawing by Georgia O’Keeffe, drawings and a print by Marsden Hartley, and a portfolio of photographs by Edward Steichen. There are also many works by other artists who exhibited at Stieglitz’s galleries, including: Pablo Picasso, Georges Braque, Henri Matisse, Paul Cézanne, Oscar Bluemner, Abraham Walkowitz, Gaston Lachaise, and Peggy Bacon. Anyone who studies or enjoys works by the great artists of the Stieglitz circle will certainly want to visit Arkansas.