John Marin (American, 1870-1953)

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  • Patches of raw canvas, daubs of thick paint, and frenzied brushwork convey the turbulence of the stormy sea.
  • Marin executed Hurricane at his summer home on the coast of Maine, but his sense of wind, water, and clouds is not tied to a specific locale.
  • Marin’s avant-garde style was encouraged by the famous New York art dealer Alfred Stieglitz. When Mrs. Fesler of Indianapolis purchased Hurricane, Stieglitz wrote congratulating her on the acquisition: “The Hurricane is certainly a masterpiece. Everyone agrees with everyone else as to that.”
Indianapolis Museum of Art: Highlights of the Collection (2005)

John Marin's approach to landscape was inspired by the angularity and flattened space of Cubism and by his great sensitivity to nature's rhythms. He developed his own style of rapid brushwork, which captured the spirit of the moment and the dynamics of a ceaselessly transforming world.

In Hurricane, Marin conveys an immediate feeling of the ocean's turbulent nature. Though he painted this canvas from his summer home on the coast of Maine, his depiction of wind, water, and clouds is not tied to any specific locale. The intimate qualities of nature and the ever-changing characteristics of weather also played a vital role in the work of Alfred Stieglitz, the photographer and art dealer who gave Marin his first important exhibition; Marin was a core member of Stieglitz's circle of avant-garde artists. In a letter to Caroline Marmon Fesler, whose estate donated this work to the IMA, Stieglitz reports that an English sailor, standing before this painting in his gallery, had said it was the first time he had ""really seen a sea painted as the sea really is.""

Marin is best known for his watercolors, but Hurricane demonstrates the effectiveness of his work in oils. In the 1930s, he developed an interest in oil painting and began to concentrate on the expressive qualities of brushwork and the ruggedness the medium made possible.

The sea that I paint may not be the sea, but it is a sea, not an abstraction.
-John Marin, 1949
Curatorial Summary

John Marin grew up in Weehawken, New Jersey, and attended the Stevens Institute of Technology before studying at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts in Philadelphia. He also studied at the Art Students League of New York and traveled around Europe for six years, painting in France, the Netherlands, Belgium, England, and Italy. It was in Europe that he developed his lifetime interest in the watercolor, under the influence of James Abbott McNeill Whistler. Alfred Stieglitz, the dealer who trumpeted Modernism, gave Marin his first one-man exhibition in New York. The association between dealer and artist lasted nearly forty years. Stieglitz’s gallery exhibitions introduced Marin to Cubism and German Expressionism, which helped him develop his expressionistic compositions.

In 1942 art critic Clement Greenberg called Marin’s work a necessary link between European Modernism and Abstract Expressionism, calling Marin “quite possibly ‘the greatest living American painter.’” In Hurricane, his frenzied brushwork suggests the turbulence of the sea and captures the essence rather than the reality of the scene. When Mrs. Fesler purchased Hurricane, Stieglitz wrote congratulating her on the acquisition: “The Hurricane is certainly a masterpiece. Every one [sic] agrees with every one [sic] else as to that….You will realize more and more as you will live with the Marins what they signify – Endless wonder. As all true art is ever a source of increasing Wonder. Music in its many manifestations.”


Balken, Debra Bricker. John Marin: Modernism at Midcentury.Andover, MA: Addison Gallery of American Art, Phillips Academy, 2011.

Hunter, Sam. Expression and Meaning: The Marine Paintings of John Marin. Edited by Timothy A. Eaton. West Palm Beach, FL: Eaton Fine Art, Inc., 1998.

Kertess, Klaus. Marin in Oil. Southampton, NY: Parrish Art Museum, 1987.

Stieglitz, Alfred. Alfred Stieglitz to Caroline Marmon Fesler, December 13, 1944. In Indianapolis Museum of Art Historical File 61.42.

Wight, Frederick S. “John Marin—Frontiersman.” In John Marin: Memorial Exhibition, by Frederick S. Wight, MacKinley Helm, and John Marin. Los Angeles: The Art Galleries, University of California, 1955. Exhibition catalog.

The artist; Alfred Stieglitz and An American Place; Mrs. Caroline Marmon Fesler purchased the piece in 1944; given to the John Herron Art Institute, Indianapolis, Indiana, now the Indianapolis Museum of Art at Newfields, in 1961.

Object Information

John Marin (American, 1870-1953)
creation date
oil on canvas
25 x 30 in.
30 x 35-1/4 x 2-1/4 in. (framed)
mark descriptions
l.r. Marin 44
accession number
credit line
Bequest of Mrs. James W. Fesler
© Estate of John Marin / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York
American Painting and Sculpture to 1945

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