History And Context
During the 1930s, Knaths’s artistic style moved toward greater abstraction, a progression well represented in Maritime. When the work was first exhibited at Downtown Gallery in 1931, Ralph Flint, critic for Art News, wrote that Knaths's new abstractions were "freshly minted patterns savoring of salty inspiration." Duncan Phillips became interested in acquiring this painting on the basis of the glowing reviews. In a letter to Edith Halpert of Downtown Gallery he wrote that he was "delighted with these pictures," feeling that "they represented an advance" over earlier creations.
Maritime was painted in Provincetown, Massachusetts, and reveals the influence of Stuart Davis who, following his return from France in 1930, spent some time in the seaside town. In its spare abstraction, Maritime has the same flat, linear emphasis of Davis’s paintings, and just as he broke down the components of his subject matter, here Maritime is a fragmented evocation of a day's sail. The various components of the boat are abstracted and dispersed throughout the composition, reinforcing the sense of flatness. The planes of smooth, even color, separated by pristine lines, create associations with the ocean, morning, and evening skies, suggesting temporal progression through a day of sailing. The effect is enhanced by delicate associations, such as the placement of the boat's stern within the plane of color representing the evening sunset, reinforcing the notion of day's end. The general effect is a tightly structured image that elicits a mood of tranquility.