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Painting, Number 5, 1914—15

Marsden Hartley

Whitney Museum of American Art, New York

Marsden Hartley first visited Berlin in 1913. Fascinated by the pageantry, power, and sexual freedom of Imperial Germany, he relocated to the city later that year and began to incorporate references to flags, military insignia, and uniforms in his works. After Germany declared war on France and Russia in 1914, combat became for Hartley “not a romantic but a real reality.” His despair intensified after the death of Karl von Freyburg, a young German officer with whom he was in love. Painting, Number 5 is from a series of abstract portraits of von Freyburg and the German military environment.