John Marin, an early American modernist closely associated with Alfred Stieglitz, was born and raised in New Jersey. From 1899 to 1901, Marin studied at the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts under Thomas P. Anshutz and Hugh Breckenridge. After spending a few weeks in 1905 at the Art Students League, New York, Marin left for Europe. While in Paris in 1908, he met the photographer Edward Steichen, who referred his work to Alfred Stieglitz, whose gallery in New York was an important showcase for avant-garde art. Impressed, the gallery director visited Marin's Paris studio, and this encounter led to an exhibition at Stieglitz's Gallery 291 in New York in 1909.
After Marin returned to America in 1911, he began receiving an annual stipend from Stieglitz that enabled him to concentrate on his painting. In 1913 he exhibited in the Armory Show, and in the following year he discovered the countryside and coastal areas of Maine, thereafter spending his winters in New Jersey and summers in northeastern rural locations. After Stieglitz closed Gallery 291 in 1917, he used his influence to help Marin. His first retrospective was held in 1920 at Daniel Gallery in New York; in 1925 Stieglitz included him in the exhibition of "Seven Americans" held at the Anderson Gallery, New York; and in December of that year Stieglitz opened his second establishment, the Intimate Gallery, with a retrospective of Marin's work. In early 1926, Duncan Phillips purchased his first works by Marin, and in 1929 he gave the artist his first one-person museum exhibition. After having achieved critical success and recognition over the years, Marin suffered a stroke that claimed his life on October 2, 1953, at Cape Split, Maine, one of his favorite retreats.
Over the years Phillips wrote copiously about Marin. He admired his calligraphic line, luminous color, and ability to hint at the fleeting essence of the subject, and believed that he was one of America's finest modernists. In Phillips's estimate, Marin was both an impressionist and expressionist, because he could capture a moment and location as well as his subjective response to it. For Phillips, Marin’s abbreviated impressions of nature conveyed "glimpses of cosmic truth" and became "universal nature poetry." Marin experimented "on the frontiers of visual consciousness," Phillips wrote, making masterful use of space, light, and the dynamics of color. His works "required from the beholder an intuition...and an apprehension of the elemental which transcends school and dogma."