John Marin (American, 1870–1953) was an early American Modernist known for his abstract landscapes and watercolors, and was closely associated with the group of artists around Alfred Stieglitz. Born and raised in New Jersey, Marin studied at the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts under Thomas Anshutz and Hugh Breckenridge. In 1905, he spent a few weeks at the Art Students League in New York, before traveling to Europe. While in Paris in 1908, he met the photographer Edward Steichen, who introduced him to Alfred Stieglitz, whose gallery at the time was an important venue for avant-garde art. This meeting led to an exhibition at Stieglitz’s gallery in New York in 1909.
In 1911, Marin returned to the United States, and began receiving a stipend from Stieglitz that allowed him to focus on painting. In 1913, he participated in the first Armory Show. After visiting Maine, he began dividing his time between New Jersey and the northeastern countryside.
Marin’s work is characterized by an exploration of movement. Many of his subjects convey a sense of motion, from his representations of the windy coast of Maine to the fast-paced streets of New York City. Marin used movement as a means of depicting modern life and the changes taking place at the start of the 20th century. His treatment of paint, as well as his use of abstraction, is credited with influencing the Abstract Expressionists.
Marin held his first retrospective in 1920 at Daniel Gallery in New York; in 1925, Stieglitz included him in the exhibition Seven Americans at the Anderson Gallery, also in New York; and later, he held a second retrospective at Stieglitz’s newly opened Intimate Gallery.
Marin suffered a stroke and died in Cape Split, ME, at the age of 82.
Today, his works can be found in the permanent collections of institutions such as The Metropolitan Museum of Art and The Museum of Modern Art in New York, the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, the Art Institute of Chicago, the National Gallery of Art, and the Phillips Collection. In addition, his painting The Circus No. 1 is on display at the White House.