Painting No. 3

Marsden Hartley

1877 - 1943

Painting No. 3


Oil on canvas
42 x 34 1/2 in. (106.7 x 87.6 cm)
Framed: 42 3/16 x 34 3/4 x 1 1/2 in. (107.2 x 88.3 x 3.8 cm)

The bright colors, flatness, and abstraction of Hartley’s German paintings placed him at the forefront of American Modernism. Stieglitz had introduced Hartley to the work of Pablo Picasso, whose fracturing of forms suggested a method to break with realism. However, the mystic spirituality of abstractions by Wassily Kandinsky—which Hartley encountered after moving to Germany in 1913—proved a greater influence. In Painting No. 3, shapes implying land, sun, and stars are depicted as powerful swirling vortices. By continuing the painting onto its frame, Hartley suggested that the exuberance of nature cannot be contained by his canvas. The flag–like patterning also refers to Hartley’s experience of German military pageantry before World War I.

Stieglitz exhibited 40 of Hartley’s German abstractions at 291 in 1916. O’Keeffe compared them to a “brass band in a small closet,” because the bold paintings overwhelmed the modest rooms of the gallery.