In this abstract work, Marsden Hartley depicts a bird over linear and circular, colorful shapes

Marsden Hartley

American, 1877–1943

Berlin Series, No. 1, 1913

Oil on canvasboard 

18 x 15 inches

Having been invited to visit Berlin by sculptor Arnold Rönnebeck in 1913, Marsden Hartley fell in love with Germany and decided to relocate there. (He was forced to return to the United States in 1915 following the outbreak of World War I.) Hartley experienced critical growth in Berlin. It was there that he met Wassily Kandinsky and Franz Marc, who led Hartley to understand the importance of embracing spiritual values in painting.

Berlin Series, No. 1 is one of the earliest works in the group of paintings that Hartley called hisAmerikaseries. Though he used the German spelling of America, he took inspiration from Native American art. Hartley had developed interest in this art through his affiliation with Alfred Stieglitz and his circle, and he encountered a similar appreciation of primitive art among the European avant-garde. Of the approximately 14 Amerika paintings, Berlin Series, No. 1 is among four smaller paintings that are probably Hartley’s earliest Berlin paintings and convey his most abstract interpretations of Native American themes. The Amerika series represented a milestone in Hartley’s career and placed him at the forefront of the international art scene.

In this abstract work, Marsden Hartley depicts a bird over linear and circular, colorful shapes