History And Context
In summer 1934, Marsden Hartley was struggling financially, having a hard time selling his work which was deemed “not commercial enough.” He was under so much strain that when he received a bill for $184 in storage fees, he burned more than 100 paintings just so he no longer had to store them. That same summer, Hartley went to Gloucester, Massachusetts, intending to relax away from the city and paint still lifes and seascapes. Though he accomplished his task, his works were not well received. One critic said that while they were “very polished and commercial still-lifes,” they were still too reminiscent of Hartley’s typical work that rarely had commercial viability.
Sea View, New England, painted that summer, is of the view of the coast from what appears to be Hartley’s window. “Gail Scott … pointed out that it is a motif of his own invention, a still-life ‘in front of [a] telescopic seascape vista.’” Though the painting is titled Sea View, the actual view is a small portion of the painting. Hartley has framed the view with motifs suggesting marine life, including a fish and starfish, making it appear as if we are looking through a port-hole out onto the water. Hartley employed thick, rough brushstrokes and limited his palette to blue and brown, mimicking the texture of the water and well as the wood, possibly suggesting the view is from a boat.