Marsden Hartley

Forms Abstracted

Not on view



Oil on canvas, with wood frame

Overall: 39 5/8 × 31 13/16in. (100.6 × 80.8 cm)

Accession number

Credit line
Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; gift of Mr. and Mrs. Hudson D. Walker and exchange

Rights and reproductions
© artist or artist’s estate


In 1912, Marsden Hartley sailed for Europe, settling first in Paris and later in Berlin. The increasingly nationalist, militaristic atmosphere of the imperial German capital on the brink of war would soon inspire Hartley to turn to heraldic imagery as subject matter for his paintings. With its palette of black, red, and white and its flattened color planes with interlocking designs, Forms Abstracted begins to show this influence, anticipating the artist’s subsequent War Motif series. The composition also suggests the impact of Hartley’s encounters with the Munich-based Blaue Reiter artists Franz Marc and Wassily Kandinsky. Painted the year of his visit to Kandinsky’s studio, Forms Abstracted recalls the Blaue Reiter artists’ preoccupation with animals and religious folk-art subjects. Here, Hartley embraces a spiritual theme, depicting the Lamb of God surrounded by radiating orbs, with a painted frame concept borrowed from folk art sources.