Arts Everyday Living: Animals in Art—Maine’s Red Lobster, Creature from the Sea

Marsden Hartley, Lobster on a Black Background, 1940-1941, oil on fiberboard, 22 x 28 in., Smithsonian American Art Museum, Washington, D.C., Gift of Mr. Henry P. Mcllhenny, 1978

Title: Lobster on a Black Background, 1940-1941

Artist: Marsden Hartley (1877-1943)

What do you think of this big fellow? More likely to be your main course than a beloved pet? Eaten with gusto, dipped in drawn butter, or combined with an order of steak. Then savored and digested with extra care, for dining on lobster is a special event, not an every day meal.

Or do you find this creature from the sea too intimidating? If so, why? Is it his size? And color? The way his bright red body, especially his claws, sprawls out across the background of contrasting black?

Marsden Hartley, its creator, was around 64 and probably a seasoned lobster connoisseur when he completed this work in 1941. Hartley, considered one of America’s prominent artists of the twentieth century, was a lover of the ocean, including its inhabitants whether shelled or scaled.





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