John Marin, “A Looking Back-The Marin Family,” 1953. Oil and graphite on canvas, 22 in. x 18 in. (55.88 cm x 45.72 cm). Gift of Norma B. Marin; 031.1998. Courtesy of Colby College

The Colby College Museum of Art received a gift of 184 pieces of art from the late Norma Marin, who had a long relationship with the museum and was the daughter-in-law of the influential painter John Marin.

The works were long-term loans and have now been converted into permanent gifts, the museum announced Friday, but it wouldn’t say how much they are worth. They include 28 prints by John Marin, an early American modernist known for abstract landscapes; a family portrait that he painted in 1953, the year he died; and more than 150 photographs that represented Norma Marin’s personal passions. The donation represents a long history of gifts to the museum by the Marin family.

John Marin, “The Tyrol,” 1910. Watercolor on paper, 17 3/4 in. x 15 1/8 in. (45.09 cm x 38.42 cm). Gift of John Marin, Jr. and Norma B. Marin, 1973.041. Courtesy of Colby College

“The museum was established in 1959, and relatively soon after that received its first Marin artwork,” said Elizabeth Finch, head curator of the Colby Museum. “That gift began to establish the museum as a destination for the appreciation and study of John Marin and more broadly American modernism, and it has grown and continued ever since.”

Norma Marin died in 2022 at the age of 91. Lisa Marin, her daughter, now serves on the museum’s board of governors and chairs one of its committees.

“Sadly, Mother is not around to mark this occasion, but I know she would be very proud and honored,” Lisa Marin said in a statement. “She cared deeply about the Colby Museum and was always happy to support it and represent it over a very long period of time.”

Charles Sheeler, “Norma and John Marin Jr., Cape Split,” 1955. Gelatin Silver Print, 9 3/4 in. x 9 7/16 in. (24.77 cm x 23.97 cm). Gift of Norma B. Marin; 451.2008. Courtesy of Colby College

In 2018, Marin gave 28 German Expressionist prints to the museum, including work by Otto Dix and Ernst Ludwig Kirchner. In an interview at the time, Marin said she had collected those pieces because of the way they made her feel. An early purchase was a print by Lyonel Feininger, which caught her eye at a large print fair in New York.


“It was quite abstract, and it was quite different, on yellowish kind of paper. It was a strong print, so I thought, ‘Gee, this is really good. I like it.’ And I just kept buying these prints, because I liked them very much. If I loved it, I bought it,” she told the Press Herald.

This latest gift includes prints by John Marin that range from his views of European landmarks from the early 20th century to later pieces that depict the New York City skyline. The photographs are also the result of her personal interests and include images by friend Berenice Abbott, as well as prints by Abbott’s peers Ansel Adams, Harry Callahan, Imogen Cunningham, Walker Evans, Paul Strand and many others. Lisa Marin said her mother enjoyed collecting photographs because they allowed her to express her personal interests apart from the family legacy.

Arnold Newman, “Untitled (John Marin),” 1947. Gelatin silver print, 9 7/16 in. x 16 13/16 in. (23.97 cm x 42.7 cm). Gift of Norma B. Marin; 312.2008 Courtesy of Colby College

“Usually every Saturday, my parents would go to galleries and whatnot, and at a certain point, I would say in the late ’60s, early ’70s, Mother became very interested in photography,” said her daughter. “For her, photography was a little more low-key than some other kinds of art, and photography gallery owners were maybe a little more laid back. It was a little less formal, and she liked that.”

“I had the pleasure of knowing Norma, and I had such respect for her great love of art and artists,” Finch said. “She had a terrific eye, and she was able to balance her advocacy for John Marin with her areas of collecting, photography, and German Expressionism among them. She was truly a unique person, very special, and very independent-minded. She had strong passions and strong convictions, and she lived by them.”

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