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Berlin to Denver: Marsden Hartley and Arnold Rönnebeck

Tuesday, June 14, 2022 - 6:00 PM

Running Time: 1 hour

Join acclaimed LGBTQ author, filmmaker, playwright, and curator Gregory Hinton for a lecture and performance, which examines the long, close friendship between the great American modernist painter, poet, and essayist Marsden Hartley (1877–1943) and Arnold Rönnebeck (1885–1947), ex-pat German sculptor, lecturer, and Founding Director of the Denver Art Museum (1926–1929).

American Modernist painter, poet, and essayist Marsden Hartley (1877-1943) visited Germany multiple times, in 1913, 1914, 1927, 1933, presaging the buildup of both the military buildup in WW1 and WW2.

Key to the socially awkward, Hartley’s comfort and social ease was the friendship of amiable German sculptor Arnold Rönnebeck, who Hartley first met in Paris at Restaurant Thomas, an artist hangout. It was in Paris that Hartley also met Rönnebeck’s cousin, a handsome German officer named Karl von Freyburg, the eventual inspiration of Hartley’s most beloved series of paintings.

Hartley and Rönnebeck became Saturday evening regulars at the salon of Gertrude Stein. Hartley froze when asked what kind of pictures he painted; prompting Stein to visit his studio to see for herself. She suggested he hang a few among her Matisses and Picassos so he might see for himself how they held their own.

On his first trip to Berlin, hosted by Rönnebeck’s family, Hartley wrote: “Berlin was tense with vitality and a most human quality...A week in Berlin made me feel that one had come home...”

This presentation intends to underscore that along with Alfred Stieglitz, Gertrude Stein and Mabel Dodge Luhan, Arnold Rönnebeck was a significant change agent in Hartley’s life. The whereabouts of Rönnebeck’s bust, “Marsden Hartley, 1923” are unknown. Without Rönnebeck, Portrait of a German Officer would not exist.

The Denver Art Museum’s intimate collection of Hartley paintings and drawings offers a wonderful opportunity to share a little-known Denver LGBTQ hidden history about a friendship between a deeply shy gay artist and a generous ally.

A Colorado son, Gregory Hinton is the creator of Out West, a national museum program series offering lectures, plays, and gallery exhibitions dedicated to shining a light on the history and culture of the LGBTQ community in the American West since 2009.

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