Mushrooms on a Blue Background

Creation date
oil on masonite
Mark Descriptions
signed on verso and dated: 1929
15 x 18 in.
Credit line
The Robert and Traude Hensel Collection
Accession number
Currently On View

With its rapid brushwork and tilted perspective, this painting summons a strong sense of motion.

Hartley worked in France in the late 1920s, where he produced numerous still lifes.

The artist was a member of the Stieglitz Group of American Modernist artists.

Bernard Dannenberg Gallery in New York; Mrs. Francis Phipp Mallek from the estate of the artist
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Marsden Hartley’s Modern Still Lifes

Born in Lewiston, Maine, Marsden Hartley studied art at the Cleveland School of Art, the Chase School, and the National Academy of Design. By 1909, he had his first exhibition at Alfred Stieglitz’s New York gallery and he became part of the dealer’s progressive circle of modernists that also included Georgia O’Keeffe, Arthur Dove, and John Marin. He traveled to Europe in 1912, working in Germany under the influence of Expressionism and in Paris, where he met Gertrude Stein and was introduced to some important avant-garde artists. He experimented with Paul Cézanne’s style of modernism and created numerous still life paintings that focused on decorative elements and structure. Hartley returned to the United States to explore American subject matter. The symbolism and spirituality he found in his subjects became an important part of his life and art, resulting in some of his most powerful paintings. Later in his life, Hartley spent several years in the fishing village at Blue Rocks, Nova Scotia, where he did a series of portraits of the lobstermen. He also painted several religious subjects and returned to still lifes, adding seascape backgrounds.

In the late 1920s, Hartley worked in France, where he renewed his fascination with the art of Paul Cézanne. During this period, he produced many still lifes, including this unusual view of mushrooms tumbling against a blue background. With its rapid brushwork and tilted perspective, the painting summons a strong sense of motion.

Kornhauser, Elizabeth Mankin. Marsden Hartley: American Modernist. New Haven: Yale University Press, 2003.