Discussion by Jonathan Katz, co-curator of “Hide/Seek” and Chair of the Visual Studies Doctoral Program at SUNY-Buffalo.
Marsden Hartley died the year after this photograph was taken, and this portrait of the artist is full of abstract themes of death and loss, both for the subject and the photographer, George Platt Lynes.
Hartley sits slumped and exhausted, a condition heightened by his mourning the recent death of a young man to whom he was attracted in Maine. But Lynes alludes to Hartley’s earlier loss of Karl von Freyburg in World War I in the shadowy figure of the young man in uniform projected on the back wall. This memorial to lost youth had a poignant double meaning, since Lynes’s assistant, George Tichenor, to whom he was deeply and unsuccessfully attracted, had just been killed in World War II. Lynes posed an assistant-quite possibly Tichenor’s brother Jonathan--in George’s uniform as an abstract representation of the losses that shadowed both his and the aged Hartley’s lives.
"Hide/Seek: Difference and Desire in American Portraiture" was on view at the National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution, from October 30, 2010 through February 13, 2011.
For more on the exhibit, visit the exhibit website at: http://npg.si.edu/exhibit/hideseek .
George Platt Lynes (1907-1955) Gelatin silver print, 1942 Bates College Museum of Art, Lewiston, Maine; Marsden Hartley Memorial Collection