Artist: John Marin (American, Rutherford, New Jersey 1870–1953 Cape Split, Maine)
Medium: Watercolor and charcoal on paper
Dimensions: 15 3/4 x 18 7/8 in. (40 x 47.9 cm)
Credit Line: Alfred Stieglitz Collection, 1949
Accession Number: 49.70.110
Rights and Reproduction: © 2017 Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York
Since the early twentieth century, John Marin has been considered an important member of the group of modern artists-including Georgia O'Keeffe, Arthur Dove, and Marsden Hartley-who were associated with Alfred Stieglitz and his New York galleries. Although Marin had dabbled in art since childhood and went to work in an architect's office, he did not become a serious artist until he met Stieglitz in 1909, when Marin was almost forty years old. His fame was established early on as one of America's premier watercolorists, and his preferred subjects were landscapes. Most of his landscapes were done in Maine during the summer; the rest of the year he lived in Cliffside, New Jersey, and made frequent trips to New York City. St. Paul's, Manhattan is one of several architectural studies he made in the 1910s-in a variety of media (watercolor, pencil, and etching)-that capture the energy and movement of the bustling metropolis in an era when skyscrapers began to take over the skyline. Here, however, Marin celebrates a landmark of colonial America-Saint Paul's Chapel, completed in 1766-by transforming it into a modern Cubo-Futurist tower.
In conjunction with one of his Photo-Secession shows, Marin wrote in Camera Work about his New York watercolors: "Shall we consider the life of a great city as confined simply to the people and animals on its streets and in its buildings? Are the buildings themselves dead? … I see great forces at work: great movements; the large buildings and the small buildings; the warring of the great and the small; influences of one mass on another greater or smaller mass…. While these powers are at work pushing, pulling, sideways, downwards, upwards, I can hear the sound of their strife and there is great music being played. And so I try to express graphically what a great city is doing."