Becoming John Marin

Modernist at Work



An American Place

Alfred Stieglitz’s gallery where he and his collaborators showed American modern art from 1929–1950. Marin was given a solo exhibition there nearly every year.

Armory Show

The International Exhibition of Modern Art, best known as the Armory Show, opened in New York on February 17, 1913, at the 69th Regiment Armory. The spectacular exhibition of over 1,000 works introduced much of the American public to an array of European and American modernist art in styles ranging from romanticism to cubism and futurism. The exhibition was a tremendous popular success despite the skepticism many felt about the unfamiliar art and the people who made it. Newspapers were filled with articles and cartoons ridiculing the strange art and the massive exhibition. After it closed in New York, the Armory Show moved on to Chicago and Boston. Ten watercolors by John Marin were included in the Armory Show, including a suite of images of the Woolworth Building.

Camera Work

The magazine of modernism published by Alfred Stieglitz from 1903 to 1917. It was often called the most beautiful magazine in the world because of the beautiful photographic images carefully printed by Stieglitz using the photo-gravure process. John Marin’s art and reviews of his exhibitions were often included in Camera Work.

Arthur B. Carles

A Philadelphia artist who traveled to France in 1907, where he became friends with John Marin and Edward Steichen. Carles was a member of the Stieglitz Circle.

Cellulose acetate

This acetate ester of cellulose first appeared in 1865. It was used as a base for photographic film. John Marin made completed drawings on cellulose acetate and used it to trace images from one surface to another. The National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C., has the largest collection of Marin’s many drawings and paintings on cellulose acetate.


A multi-colored picture printed by lithography. The process of lithography uses the chemical antipathy of oil and water to create detailed images printed from limestone onto paper using oil-based ink. This process was most popular in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Steam-driven presses were employed to crank out thousands of art reproductions, advertisements, posters, and other cheap images.


This word from Latin means the execution date given is approximate because we do not know the date precisely. For works in the collection of the Arkansas Arts Center, circa means the work was made within a span of about five years before to five years after the given date.


An art movement founded in France beginning in 1907 by Pablo Picasso (1881–1973) who was later joined in the venture by Georges Braque (1882–1963). The original approach involved combining on one surface various views of people and objects as the viewer and the subjects portrayed moved in space over time. Later versions of the style evolved in France, Russian, the United States and elsewhere around the world. John Marin’s art was profoundly influenced by cubism and the art of French post-impressionist artist Henri Cezanne, whose art was a direct inspiration to the invention of cubism.


A set number of fine art prints made from the same plate or plates or other matrixes, using the same paper and the same inks and achieving nearly identical images. John Marin made some etchings printed in editions, but in other cases he printed only one or two impressions from an etching plate.


A type of intaglio print made from a metal plate, usually made of copper, and printed on paper to create multiples of an image. The design of lines and dots to be printed is etched into the plate by acid while an acid-resistant substance protects the parts of the plate not to be etched. To print an etching plate, the etched lines are filled with ink. The plate is placed face up on the horizontal steel bed of a printing press with a dampened sheet of paper on top of it and a blanket of felt on top of that. These are run through a high-pressure press, creating an image in mirror image of the design that was etched into the plate. Marin was an accomplished etcher who began working in the medium in 1905.


The mineral used for the “lead” part of a pencil that makes a mark. Graphite is a naturally occurring form of carbon.

Ernest Haskell

An American fine artist and illustrator who recommended to John Marin that he spend the summer of 1914 in West Point, Maine.


A single image printed from an inked etching plate or another print making matrix.

Little Galleries of the Photo-Secession

See 291 Gallery.

Alfred Maurer

An American modern artist who was a member of Stieglitz Circle. John Marin’s first exhibition at 291 Gallery held in 1909 was in conjunction with an exhibition of oil sketches by Alfred Maurer.

Pictorial photography

An approach to photography that treated the medium not as a scientific technical process, but as a fine art process. That is, this was photography to make pictures such as were shown in galleries and museums. The Pictorial style often included included blurred images, hand-manipulated negatives and prints, and prints mounted and signed in pencil as if they were fine art prints like etchings. Pictorialism was practiced in Europe and the United States in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Alfred Stieglitz was a Pictorial photographer before turning to a more “straight” unmanipulated style. Stieglitz originally founded the magazine Camera Work in 1903 and the Little Gallery of the Photo-Secession in 1905 to promote Pictorial photography.

John Augustus Roebling

A German-born civil engineer who designed suspension bridges, including the Brooklyn Bridge.

Salon d’Automne, Paris

An art exhibition that has appeared annually in Paris since 1903. The exhibition began as a means to feature more modern art than would be accepted for exhibition at the conservative annual Paris Salon.


A particular version of a fine art print such as an etching. Each time the artist makes a change in the plate or matrix and then makes a test print known as a proof, the changed version of the image is known as a different state of the print. The first version is termed the first state, the second version is termed the second state, and so on. John Marin did not usually create more than two different states of any of his etchings. Other artists have been known to make ten or more different states of an etching.

Edward Steichen

One of the key modernist figures in the American ex-patriot community in Paris before the first World War. Steichen was an American photographer and painter who acted as the European talent scout for the most important exhibitor and promoter of modern art in America, the photographer Alfred Stieglitz. Steichen arranged many key exhibitions of modern art, including John Marin’s first American exhibition, held in 1909 at 291 Gallery.

Alfred Stieglitz

A great photographer and the most important exhibitor and promoter of modern art in America in the early twentieth century. John Marin’s first American exhibition was held in 1909 at Stieglitz’s influential gallery of modernism in New York, 291. Stieglitz led a gathering of modern artists, theorists, art collectors, critics, and other friends now termed the Stieglitz Circle. It was at that time probably the greatest center of artistic innovation in the United States. After 291 closed in 1917, Stieglitz continued exhibit Marin’s works at his later galleries, The Intimate Gallery from 1925 to 1929, and An American Place from 1929 to 1950. Stieglitz was not only John Marin’s art dealer, but also a mentor and close friend. Marin was a witness when Stieglitz married artist Georgia O’Keeffe (1887–1986) in 1924. Many of Marin’s letters to Stieglitz were published during the artist’s lifetime.

Stieglitz Circle

The circle of American modern artists, collectors, theorists, critics, and other friends of modern art who gathered around Alfred Stieglitz and his art galleries. The group constituted a salon with a wide and shifting membership. The central American modern artists whom Stieglitz exhibited repeatedly during the early to mid twentieth century included himself, Edward Steichen, John Marin, Arthur G. Dove (1880–1946), Marsden Hartley, Charles Demuth (1880–1935), and Georgia O’Keeffe. Stieglitz also exhibited and collected work by many other modern artists, both European and American.


To learn more, see the following books:

  • Art Institute of Chicago, Martha Tedeschi, Kristi Dahm, Ruth Fine, Charles Pietraszewski, Christine Conniff-O’Shea, and High Museum of Art, eds. John Marin’s Watercolors: A Medium for Modernism. 1st ed. Chicago: New Haven: Art Institute of Chicago; distributed by Yale University Press, 2010.

  • Davis, Jim. “Notes on John Marin.” In Notes on John Marin; Frank Lloyd Wright, edited by Robert A. Haller, 1–60. New York, New York: Anthology Film Archives, 1997.

  • Fine, Ruth, and National Gallery of Art (U.S.). John Marin. Washington, D.C., New York: National Gallery of Art, Abbeville Press, 1990.

  • Greenough, Sarah, et al. Modern Art and America: Alfred Stieglitz and His New York Galleries. New York: Bulfinch Press, 2000.

  • Helm, MacKinley. John Marin. Boston: Pellegrini & Cudahy in association with the Institute of Contemporary Art, 1948.

  • Homer, William Innes. Alfred Stieglitz and the American Avant-Garde. London: Secker and Warburg, 1977.

  • Korom, Joseph J. The American Skyscraper 1850-1940: A Celebration of Height. Boston, Mass: Branden Books, 2008.

  • Kushner, Marilyn, and Kimberly Orcutt, eds. The Armory Show at 100: Modernism and Revolution. New York: New-York Historical Society, 2013.

  • Marin, John. John Marin Drawings, 1886-1951. Utah: University of Utah Press, 1969.

  • Marin, John. Letters of John Marin. Edited by Herbert J. Seligmann. New York: Priv. Print. for An American Place, 1931.

  • Marin, John. The Selected Writings of John Marin. Edited by Dorothy Norman. New York: Pellegrini and Cudahy, 1949.

  • Marin, John, and Ruth Fine. The John Marin Collection at the Colby College Museum of Art. Waterville, Me: Colby College Museum of Art, 2003.

  • McCullough, David. The Great Bridge: The Epic Story of the Building of the Brooklyn Bridge. New York, New York: Simon and Schuster, 2012.

  • Metropolitan Museum of Art (New York, N.Y., Messinger, Lisa Mintz, and Magdalena Dabrowski. Stieglitz and His Artists: Matisse to O’Keeffe. New York: Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2011.

  • Reed, Sue, and Carol Troyen. Awash in Color: Homer, Sargent, and the Great American Watercolor. Boston, Massachusetts: Museum of Fine Arts, 1993.

  • Reich, Sheldon. John Marin: A Stylistic Analysis and Catalogue Raisonné. 2 vols. Tucson: University of Arizona Press, 1970.

  • Rose, Barbara. John Marin: The 291 Years. New York: Richard York Gallery, 1998.

  • Wagner, Ann Prentice. “‘Living on Paper:’ Georgia O’Keeffe and the Culture of Drawing and Watercolor in the Stieglitz Circle.” PhD dissertation, University of Maryland, 2005.

  • Zigrosser, Carl. Catalogue Raisonné: The Complete Etchings of John Marin. Pennsylvania, Philadelphia: Philadelphia Museum of Art, 1969.