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Artist: Marsden Hartley (American, 1877 - 1943)

Date: 1927
Medium: Graphite on wove paper
Overall: 18 3/4 x 24 1/4in. (47.6 x 61.6cm)
Markings: Watermark, upper right (block letters): "P.M. FABRIAN[O]"
Inscribed: Verso, lower right (graphite): "c 425 -"; upper left (graphite): "6 [encircled] Peaches 1927 / Pencil / $125 [erased]"; upper left (black ink on adhesive-backed label): "399"
Credit Line: Museum Purchase
Object number: 92.27
Text Entries

Marsden Hartley moved to Vence in the south of France in August 1925. During this period, he painted landscapes and Cubist-inspired still lifes. In October 1926, after he moved to Aix—en-Provence, Hartley paid much closer attention to Cezanne’s work. The next winter and spring he traveled to Paris, Berlin, and Hamburg before settling down back in Aix for the summer to paint. Several of his still life sketches of peaches appear to have been made at this time, when the fruit was in season. That same summer of 1927, Hartley met Erle Loran, a young American painter whose passionate devotion to the art of Cezanne equaled his own.(1)

Hartley’s awareness of Cezanne had begun much earlier. In November 1910, Alfred Stieglitz exhibited lithographs by Cezanne at his New York City gallery, 291, which had given Hartley his first show in May 1909. The gallery also featured twenty of Cezanne’s watercolors in March 1911. The first significant impact of Cezanne’s work on Hartley, who was then living in New York, occurred at this time. Hartley was soon actively pursuing the lessons of Cezanne, for by September he asked Stieglitz to get him “reproductions of any sort—of Cezanne,” whom he praised for his “strength of intellect.”(2)

Hartley’s enthusiasm for Cezanne persisted in Europe, where he went to live in the spring of 1912. In October 1913, he wrote from Berlin to his friend Gertrude Stein, the American expatriate art collector and writer who, together with her brother, Leo, had purchased a number of Cezannes. Hartley told her that the artist Arthur B. Davies “took me to Mrs. [Henry O.] Havemeyer’s house to see her collection among which are nine Cezannes—very fine over all—that was my first actual glimpse of him.”(3) (He probably meant that this was the first time he saw Cezanne’s oils.) Hartley explained to Stein that “it was from his water colors that I got most inspiration as expressing color & form.”(4) Besides Stein’s Cezannes in Paris, Hartley informed his friend that he had seen further examples at the Bernheim-Jeune Gallery.

Hartley was soon distracted from Cezanne by his equally intense encounter with Kandinsky and German expressionism. Yet a link to Cezanne persisted in part because Kandinsky and his co-editor Franz Marc had chosen reproductions of Cezanne, including a still life of fruit, for their 1911 almanac Der Blaue Reiter, a book Hartley owned and admired. Hartley later expressed his own appreciation for Cezanne in his essay, “Whitman and Cezanne,” published in 1921 in his book Adventures in the Arts,(5) But Cezanne’s work began to play a much more central role in Hartley’s own artistic production only after he settled in the south of France.(6)

In Peaches, Hartley focused on exploring Cezanne’s architectonic plasticity and adapted the French painter’s tabletop tilted toward the picture plane. Hartley attempted to render the three-dimensional forms of the summer fruit in a space articulated by rather exaggerated folds in the tablecloth. As he investigated the visual sensation of peaches, however, Hartley inevitably suggested other meanings associated with ripe fruit since ancient times—sensuality, fecundity, life, and death.


1. See Erle Loran’s later study, Cézannes Composition (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1943).

2. Marsden Hartley to Alfred Stieglitz, September 1911, Yale Collection of American Literature, Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library.

3. Marsden Hartley to Gertrude Stein, October 1913, quoted in Donald Gallup, ed., The Flowers of Friendship: Letters Written to Gertrude Stein (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1953), 85.

4. Ibid.

5. Marsden Hartley, Adventures in the Arts: Informal Chapters on Painters, Vaudeville and Poets (New York: Boni, Liveright, 1921), 30-41.

6. See Klaus Lankheit, ed., The Blaue Reiter Almanac Edited by Wassily Kandinsky and

Franz Marc (New York: The Viking Press, 1974), 126.


© Estate of Marsden Hartley, Yale University Committee on Intellectual Property