Becoming John Marin

Modernist at Work


Becoming John Marin

Modernist at Work

Becoming John Marin invites you to look over the shoulder of American modern artist John Marin (1870–1953) to see his use of drawings and sketches. Most of his informal drawings and watercolor sketches have rarely been seen outside his studio. These very personal images let us travel with Marin through the crowded streets of New York, along the rocky shores of Maine, and into the cluttered creative space of his studio.

River Movement, Manhattan Skyline

    John Marin, River Movement, Manhattan Skyline, 1910-1912, graphite and watercolor on textured watercolor paper, 12 ¾ × 10 ¾ in. (32.38 × 27.30 cm.), Arkansas Arts Center Foundation Collection, Gift of Norma B. Marin, New York, New York. 2013.018.154

    John Marin Biography

    John Marin was one of America’s outstanding modernists from his debut exhibition of watercolors at Alfred Stieglitz’s 291 Gallery in New York City in 1909, until the artist’s death in 1953. The eccentric New Jersey native was a major force among the cutting-edge modern artists who gathered around Stieglitz. Marin is best known for his lively, idiosyncratic watercolors, etchings, and oil paintings of New York City and the coast of Maine. But he also made thousands of drawings for his own creative purposes.


    Our stories bring the artist’s completed works from various museums together with the drawings and sketches he used to capture views and develop his ideas. Historical and contemporary photographs of the same subjects show how the artist changed what he saw to express his own vision.


    A timeline traces Marin’s story as his art developed, from his early years, through his time in Europe, to the later years with Stieglitz and his last years through the 1950s.

    Project Collaborators

    • The Arkansas Museum of Fine Arts

      The Arkansas Museum of Fine Arts is an active partner in the educational, economic, and cultural life of a diverse community; inviting discovery, creativity, and learning through engagement with the visual and performing arts. The AMFA is also a regional leader in the study, display, and preservation of drawings and contemporary craft and leads the state in displaying international artists and diverse voices that effectively reflect a broad array of cultural backgrounds and viewpoints. Through the visual and performing arts, the AMFA engages its audience in a broader dialogue with the world, society, and history.

    • The National Gallery of Art

      The National Gallery of Art was conceived and given to the people of the United States by Andrew W. Mellon (1855–1937). Mellon was a financier and art collector from Pittsburgh who came to Washington in 1921 to serve as secretary of the treasury. During his years of public service he came to believe that the United States should have a national art museum equal to those of other great nations. The mission of the National Gallery of Art is to serve the United States of America in a national role by preserving, collecting, exhibiting, and fostering the understanding of works of art at the highest possible museum and scholarly standards.

    • The Henry Luce Foundation

      This website is funded by a grant from The Henry Luce Foundation.

      The Henry Luce Foundation was established in 1936 by Henry R. Luce, the co-founder and editor-in-chief of Time Inc. The foundation seeks to bring important ideas to the center of American life, strengthen international understanding, and foster innovation and leadership in academic, policy, religious, and art communities. Since the inception of the foundation’s American Art Program in 1982, more than $160 million has been disseminated to some 250 museums, universities, and service organizations in 48 states and internationally.