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Becoming John Marin: Modernist at Work

January 26 – April 22, 2018

This exhibition was organized by the Arkansas Arts Center

Becoming John Marin: Modernist at Work introduces the AAC’s important new collection of works by John Marin (1870-1953), given by the artist’s daughter-in-law, Norma Marin. Modernist at Work will bring the viewer inside the artistic process of one of America's outstanding modern artists. Marin is best known for his luminous watercolors of rural Maine and urban New York. This exhibition invites viewers to look over the artist’s shoulder as he created and honed the private sketches he would interpret into completed watercolors and etchings. The show follows the evolution of Marin’s style and methods as he transformed from intuitive draftsman to innovative modernist watercolorist and etcher.

The exhibition centers around 79 works from the collection of 290 drawings and watercolors by John Marin donated to the Arkansas Arts Center by the artist’s daughter-in-law. These works will be shown in the context of about 30 related art works by Marin loaned by outstanding public and private collections.

Viewers will see Marin developing his acclaimed images of New York City, and of the coast of Maine. The exhibition also follows the artist to lesser-known places, such as the Ramapo Mountains in New York and New Jersey. More obscure aspects of the artist’s career include portraits of friends and family, and charming drawings of zoo and circus animals. Several drawings and an unfinished and still very bright watercolor of the towering Woolworth Building, under construction in 1912, tell the inside story of a famous group of watercolors first exhibited in 1913 first at Alfred Stieglitz’s 291 Gallery and then at the ground-breaking 1913 Armory Show that introduced much of the American public to modern art.

John Marin: Modernist at Work will be accompanied by a fully illustrated catalog of the complete, newly conserved, 290-work John Marin Collection at the Arkansas Arts Center, featuring essays by AAC Curator of Drawings and curator of this exhibition, Ann Prentice Wagner, PhD, Independent Scholar Josephine White Rodgers, and other authorities.

The exhibition will also be accompanied by a web site allowing viewers to compare Marin’s drawings, watercolors, and etchings, from various collections with one another to see how the artist developed his completed works. The web site will also include historical and recent photographs of the same subjects so viewers can see the artistic decisions made by the artist in interpreting what he saw.



Featured Works from the Exhibition


Walking Bear, 1903-1905, graphite on beige paper, 3 3/4 x 6 1/2 in., Arkansas Arts Center Foundation Collection: Gift of Norma B. Marin, New York, New York, 2013.018.043

Woolworth Building Under Construction, 1912, watercolor and graphite on textured watercolor paper, 19 5/8 x 15 3/8 in., Arkansas Arts Center Foundation Collection: Gift of Norma B. Marin, New York, New York, 2013.018.011

New York, City Hall Park, circa 1910s, graphite on paper, 10 x 8 in. (25.4 x 20.32 cm.) Arkansas Arts Center Foundation Collection: Gift of Norma B. Marin, New York, New York. 2013.018.278

Manhattan Skyline from the River, 1909-1912, watercolor over graphite on textured watercolor paper, 11 1/2 x 12 3/4 in. (29.21 x 32.38 cm.) Arkansas Arts Center Foundation Collection: Gift of Norma B. Marin, New York, New York. 2013.018.152

Municipal Building, 1912, graphite on paper, 10 x 8 in., Arkansas Arts Center Foundation Collection: Gift of Norma B. Marin, New York, New York, 2013.018.273

On Mount Desert, Maine, 1920, watercolor on textured watercolor paper, 14 x 16 ¾ in., Arkansas Arts Center Foundation Collection: Gift of Norma B. Marin, New York, New York, 2013.018.142

Blue Shark, 1922, watercolor and charcoal on textured watercolor paper, 12 1/8 x 16 1/8 in. (30.80 x 40.96 cm.) Arkansas Arts Center Foundation Collection: Gift of Norma B. Marin, New York, New York. 2013.018.085

Buildings, Downtown New York, circa 1925, watercolor and graphite on board, 6 x 5 in. (15.24 x 12.7 cm.), Arkansas Arts Center Foundation Collection: Gift of Norma B. Marin, New York, New York. 2013.018.163

Nymphs and Sea, 1941, watercolor and charcoal on light rag paper, 7 1/2 x 9 1/2 in. (19.05 x 24.13 cm.) Arkansas Arts Center Foundation Collection: Gift of Norma B. Marin, New York, New York. 2013.018.001

Landscape, Ramapo Mountains, New Jersey, 1942, watercolor and charcoal on textured watercolor paper, 14 3/4 x 17 1/8 in. (37.46 x 43.50 cm.) Arkansas Arts Center Foundation Collection: Gift of Norma B. Marin, New York, New York. 2013.018.139

Trapeze Artists, circa 1944, graphite and watercolor on paper with linen surface, 6 1/4 x 10 1/8 in. (15.87 x 25.72 cm.) Arkansas Arts Center Foundation Collection: Gift of Norma B. Marin, New York, New York. 2013.018.002

The Three Pines, Blueberry Barrens, Washington County, Maine, 1952, graphite and pastel on tracing paper, 8 11/16 x 11 1/2 in. (22.07 x 29.21 cm.) Arkansas Arts Center Foundation Collection: Gift of Norma B. Marin, New York, New York. 2013.018.222

Sponsored by


Henry Luce Foundation, Luce Fund in American Art

Harriet and Warren Stephens

JCT Trust



Laura Sandage Harden and Lon Clark

In Memory of John R. Fletcher by Judy W. Fletcher



Mid-Southern Watercolorists

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