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Hidden Work by 'the Painter of Maine' Surfaces in Bank Vault

Marsden Hartley's 'Friend Against the Wind' last seen in public 40 years ago
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Jan 14, 2022 12:25 PM CST
Hidden Work by 'the Painter of Maine' Surfaces in Bank Vault
This 2017 photo shows visitors looking at paintings from the "Marsden Hartley's Maine" show at the Met Breuer Museum in New York.   (AP Photo/Beth J. Harpaz)

A painting by the American modernist Marsden Hartley that had been out of public sight for 40 years was located in a bank vault, a significant step toward uncovering the works of an increasingly appreciated artist who considered himself "the painter of Maine," reports the AP. The painting, "Friend Against the Wind," was completed in 1936, six years before Hartley's death, and had its last known public display at a Portland gallery in 1980, when it was sold to a private collector. When the collector died last year, his estate contacted Maine art historian Gail Scott and said the painting had been stored at a vault in a Portland bank to protect it from theft.

Scott, who has not revealed the name of the collector, is working with the Bates College Museum of Art in Hartley's hometown of Lewiston, Maine, to catalog the artist's works, the Portland Press Herald reported Monday. Scott this summer got to see the 12-by-17-inch painting made by Hartley in honor of Canadian friends who drowned in a hurricane, the newspaper reported. "It took a couple of months, but sure enough, I walked down to the Key Bank in downtown Portland and into the big vault and there was this painting that I had never seen in color and had never seen in person," Scott told the newspaper. Scott and others knew of the painting's existence from a black-and-white photo that had been included in a 1987 exhibition catalog.

The whereabouts of some 240 of about 1,650 of Hartley's paintings or works on paper are not known. Scott and the Bates museum, which was gifted the Hartley Memorial Collection by the artist's heirs, are collaborating on the Marsden Hartley Legacy Project to track down his works. "Hartley is increasingly recognized as one of the most significant American modernists of the 20th century," says museum director Dan Mills. "He is also one of the few of his generation and stature who does not have this kind of comprehensive scholarship available." (More art stories.)

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