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John Marin: The Watercolor Magician

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Interweaving abstraction with representation modernist John Marin was the pioneer of abstract expressionism in the canon American art. Famous for his abstract landscapes and watercolors John Marin was born on 23 December 1870 in Rutherford, New Jersey. Raised by two aunts in Weehawken, New Jersey, Marin worked unsuccessfully as a architectural draftsman at Stevens institute of technology. From 1899 to 1901 the artist studied at the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts under Thomas P. Anshutz and Hugh Breckenridge. After spending few weeks at Art Students League of New York, he left for Europe in 1905.

While in Paris in 1908 he got some success as an etcher and exhibited his works at Salon. Sojourned in Europe for five years Marin retuned to New York in 1909 and held his first one-man exhibition at Alfred Stieglitz’s 291 gallery. An annual stipend from Stieglitz enabled him to concentrate on his paintings and in 1913 he exhibited his works in the landmark Armory Show where he became families with Cubism and German Expressionism.  In the following years he discovered the countryside and coastal area of Maine and over the rest of his life Marin became intimately families with the many moods of the sea and sky in Maine.

Marin's treatment of paint, handling oils almost like watercolors, forays into abstraction and evocative stretches of bare canvas caught the eyes of younger painters. The Cubist breakdown of form and Futurism's obsession with moment and speed are evident in his breathless sketchy landscapes and seascapes. He used Fauvism's bright, arbitrary coloring and slashing brushwork of Expressionism to portray urban buildings, trees and ships’ mast.

In 1950 he was honored with honorary degrees of Doctor of Fine Arts by the University of Maine and Yale University. After having achieved critical success and recognition over the years, Marin suffered a stroke that claimed his life on October 1, 1953, at Cape Split, Maine and interred Fairview Cemetery, New Jersey.

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