Himmel by Marsden Hartley
Himmel by Marsden Hartley

Himmel, 1915

Marsden Hartley

This artwork appears like a display of fireworks translated into paint on canvas and across the frame. The composition’s overlapping, abstract, colorful shapes are rooted in French Cubism’s motifs and palette. The concentric discs floating across the painting reveal the artists' knowledge of American Indian design. They also may relate to cockades that decorated the German military uniforms that Hartley saw while living in Berlin at the onset of World War I. The German words for heaven (Himmel) and hell (Hölle) frame two conical shapes that resemble Zuckertuete, colorful bags of candy given to German schoolchildren. Combining childhood themes with military references, Hartley suggests that war is a kind of game that may end in salvation or damnation.

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Credit
The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art
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