John Marin

John Marin

American, 1870–1953
The Written Sea
1952, oil on canvas, 55.9 x 71.1 cm (22 x 28 in.)

Marin, known primarily for his work in watercolor, such as his 1922 Sunset, devoted much of his late career to working in oils. Normally considered a less fluid medium, oil paints in Marin’s hands became delicate and free-flowing—an innovative approach that inspired the younger generation of abstract expressionist painters. The Written Sea, with its flurry of calligraphic brushstrokes, evokes the perpetual movement of the windswept Maine seascape. “The Sea…wants to be horizontal,” explained the artist, “but then the horizontals begin to play, to move. Sympathetic lines turn up all over the canvas, a diagonal here, a patch of color there, all related to each other, all echoes of each other, all living together, all adding up to a total shape, but always adding up to life.”