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John Marin

Wave on Rock

1937

Artist

John Marin (1870-1953)

Title

Wave on Rock

Date

1937

Medium

Oil on canvas

Dimensions

Overall: 23 1/4 × 30 1/4 in. (59.1 × 76.8 cm)

Credit line

Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; Purchase, with funds from Charles Simon and the Painting and Sculpture Committee

Accession number

81.18

Object Label

Wave on Rock exemplifies John Marin’s expressive painterly technique as well as his devotion to nature as subject matter. Inspired by the rugged marine grandeur of Maine, where he began spending his summers in 1914, the canvas is animated by layers of fluid, energetic brushstrokes that convincingly emulate the choppy sea and crashing of foaming waves against jagged terrain. Their improvisational character suggests the quick recording of a moment, while the thick viscosity of the paint conveys the hard sharpness of the rocks and the impenetrable blueness of the sea. Marin’s rapid, energetic brushwork seems to anticipate the gestural bravado of Abstract Expressionist painting of the 1950s. Yet the artist always insisted on the realist foundations of his work: “The sea I paint may not be the sea,” he said, “but it is not an abstraction.”

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