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White Cod

Marsden Hartley

American Art

In White Cod, the American modernist Marsden Hartley transformed the traditional allegorical function of still life as a memento mori, a reminder that all living things must die, into a deeply personal memorial. The two dead cod most likely allude to the 1936 drowning of Alton and Donald Mason, sons of a Nova Scotia fishing family with whom he lived during the summers of 1935 and 1936. Hartley linked the deaths of his beloved friends to Christ’s martyrdom through the traditional Christian symbolism of the fish. His expressive brushwork and somber palette also enhance the emotional intensity of this painting.
MEDIUM Oil on composition board
DATES 1942
DIMENSIONS 22 x 28 in. (55.9 x 71.1 cm) Frame: 31 1/2 x 37 1/2 x 3 in. (80 x 95.3 x 7.6 cm)
SIGNATURE Signed lower right: "M H / 42"
MUSEUM LOCATION This item is not on view
CREDIT LINE Bequest of Edith and Milton Lowenthal
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