April 17, 2019

“Becoming John Marin” at Zimmerli Museum

“MANHATTAN SKYLINE FROM THE RIVER”: This watercolor by John Marin is featured in “Becoming John Marin: Modernist at Work,” on exhibit at the Zimmerli Art Museum at Rutgers University through May 26.

The artistic evolution of an iconic American modernist is the focus of an exhibition now open at the Zimmerli Art Museum at Rutgers. “Becoming John Marin: Modernist at Work” explores the artist’s intuitive draftsmanship and innovative work in watercolors. A revelatory look at Marin’s work, the exhibition affords a unique opportunity to vicariously watch an artist inspired by his surroundings and responding through drawing.

“Drawing was central to Marin’s artistic process, and he made thousands throughout his career,” said Ann Prentice Wagner, Ph.D., curator of drawings at the Arkansas Arts Center, who organized the exhibition. “These working drawings give us invaluable 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 or depict in prints — like the Brooklyn Bridge and the New York skyline.”

“The works featured in ‘Becoming John Marin’ provide both beautiful and exciting examples of Marin’s rigorous drawing practice, and visitors will delight in seeing how he translated familiar regional sites into dynamic compositions,” added Christine Giviskos, Ph.D., curator of prints, drawings, and European art at the Zimmerli.

The exhibition is organized by the Arkansas Arts Center, where it debuted in 2018 with never-before-exhibited drawings and watercolors. The second largest repository of John Marin (1870 — 1953) works in the world, the Arkansas Arts Center’s 290-work collection is surpassed only by that of the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C. “Becoming John Marin: Modernist at Work” features 80 works from this collection, as well as four prints from the Zimmerli’s own collection. In addition to subjects depicting New York City and Maine, for which Marin is best known, the exhibition features some of the artist’s earliest known drawings, including his lesser-known subjects of sites in Northern New Jersey, works made during his European sojourn, and animals and circus subjects. A complementary presentation of 30 American prints from the Zimmerli’s collection explores how Marin’s contemporaries also portrayed a rapidly changing New York City and environs during the first half of the 20th century.

Beginning with his 1909 debut exhibition of watercolors at Alfred Stieglitz’s 291 Gallery in New York, until his death in 1953, Marin was a major force among the cutting-edge modern artists who gathered around Stieglitz. The artist was best known for his lively, idiosyncratic watercolors, etchings, and oil paintings of the disparate worlds of landscapes near his home in New Jersey, gritty New York City, and coastal Maine. In 1948, a Look magazine survey of museum directors, curators, and art critics selected Marin as the greatest painter in America.

​“Becoming John Marin: Modernist at Work” is on view at the Zimmerli Art Museum at Rutgers through May 26. Admission is free. The museum is located at 71 Hamilton Street (at George Street) on the College Avenue Campus of Rutgers University in New Brunswick. For more information, visit www.zimmerlimuseum.rutgers.edu or call (848) 932-7237.