Valley of the Hondo, New Mexico

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John Marin
American, 1870-1953

Valley of the Hondo, New Mexico, 1930

Watercolor with black crayon, on moderately thick, moderately textured, ivory wove paper (all edges trimmed), in original frame
394 x 522 mm
Alfred Stieglitz Collection, 1949.569

© 2016 Estate of John Marin / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York

A layered vista is sandwiched between shrubbery in the foreground and mountain peaks in the background. Distance is marked by the varying intensity of the brilliant blue watercolor. The artist applied washes with little overlap, preserving clear, vivid color against the white paper. A hallmark of his art, Marin’s skies demonstrate his recognition that light effects and weather conditions are crucial to the landscape painter. In this watercolor, intermittent thunderstorms move across the horizon, crashing down from heavy clouds. Marin wrote to Stieglitz from Taos in July 1929: “You can see six or seven thunderstorms going on at the same time. Big sun heat. Big storm. Big everything.”

— Exhibition label, John Marin's Watercolors: A Medium for Modernism, January 19-April 17, 2011, Galleries 124-127.

Marin made his first trip to the West in early June 1929 at the suggestion of two friends, Georgia O'Keeffe and Rebecca Strand (wife of the photographer Paul Strand). O'Keeffe' s invitation came at a good moment, because Marin was feeling the need to explore new territory and escape what he called "living in herds" in Manhattan. Marin had also been tempted to visit the West by his friend the painter Marsden Hartley's vivid descriptions of the landscape. During the summers of 1929 and 1930 Marin lived and painted in New Mexico, following the lead of several of the artists who congregated around the 291 gallery in New York. Valley of the Hondo, New Mexico was one of the group of thirty watercolors that was exhibited in 1931 at Alfred Stieglitz's gallery An American Place.