In this painting, three shells—a large white shell and two smaller brown and gray shells—float against a deep brownish-black background. Reproductions of this painting have shown it oriented both vertically (with the large shell on the left side) and horizontally, sometimes with the larger shell on top and other times with it on the bottom.
There is a starkness to these late still-lifes, unlike those Hartley painted in the late 1920s, such as Two Shells, 1928, in the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden. The fleshy pink shells have given way to whites and tans. Dark blackish browns and reds have replaced the bright palette of pinks and blues.
Estate of the Artist;
[Paul Rosenberg and Company, New York, by August 1949];
Joseph H. Hirshhorn, New York, NY, 1959-1966;
Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Washington D.C., 1966-1987;
[Christie’s New York, December 4, 1987, lot 327];
Private Collection, New York;[Babcock Galleries, New York, NY];
New York. Museum of Modern Art, Circulating Exhibition, By The Sea.Williamstown, MA. Williams College (September 26-October 17, 1949); Oswego, NY. Osewego State Teachers College (October 31-November 21, 1949); Lock Haven, PA. Lock Haven State Teachers College (December 5-26, 1949); Wellesley, MA. Wellesley College (January 9-30, 1950); Evanstown, IL. Northwestern University (February 13-March 6, 1950); Durham, NC. Duke University (March 20-April 10, 1950); Newar, DE, University of Delaware (April 24-May 15, 1950); Washington D.C. Washington Workshop (September 14-October 5, 1950); Providence, RI. Rhode Island League for Arts and Crafts (October 19-November 9, 1950); Pittsburgh, PA. Pennsylvania College for Women (November 23-December 14, 1950); Quincy, MA. Quincy Art Club (December 28, 1950-January 18, 1951); Manchester, NH. Currier Gallery of Art (February 1-22, 1951); St. Paul, MN. Hamline University (March 8-29, 1951); Albion, MI. Albion College (April 12-May 3, 1951); Potsdam, NY. Potsdam State Teachers College (May 17-June 7, 1951).
New York. Paul Rosenberg and Company. Paintings by Marsden Hartley. April 4-30, 1955, cat. no. 19.
New York. Babcock Galleries. Benn, Hartley and Maurer. November 1987.
New York. Babcock Galleries. Traditions: Babcock Galleries and American Art. 1989, ill., pl. 47.
Santa Monica. Michael Kohn Gallery. Marsden Hartley: Paintings & Drawings, 1908-1943. September-October 1990.
Chapel Hill, NC. The Ackland Art Museum, University of North Carolina. Seeking the Spiritual (1998); New York. Babcock Galleries (April 24-June 20, 1998), pp. 21-22, 78-79, ill. p. 79, cat. 27.
Hartford, Connecticut. The Wadsworth Atheneum Museum of Art. Marsden Hartley (January 17-April 20, 2003); Washington, D.C. Phillips Collection (June 7- September 7, 2003); Kansas City. Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art (October 11, 2003-January 11, 2004), pp. 281, 325-326, ill. p. 281, pl. 102, cat. no. 102.
Tulsa. Philbrook Museum of Art. From New York to New Mexico: Masterworks of American Modernism from the Vilcek Foundation Collection (February 8-May 3, 2015); Phoenix. Phoenix Art Museum (June 5-September 6, 2015); Santa Fe. Georgia O’Keeffe Museum (September 25, 2015-January 10, 2016).
Elizabeth McCausland Papers, Marsden Hartley Catalogue Raisonné: Oils [circa 1944-1964]. Box 16, Folder 7, Frames 25, 30-31, ill. 3-, 31. Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution.
Trustees of the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden. Christie’s, New York. Important American Paintings, Drawings and Sculpture of the 18th, 19th and 20th Centuries. December 4, 1987, lot 327, ill. p. 169.
Harnsberger, R. Scott. Four Artists of the Stieglitz Circle: A Sourcebook on Arthur Dove, Marsden Hartley, John Marin and Max Weber. Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 2002, p. 145.
Agee, William C. and Lewis Kachur. Masterpieces of American Modernism: From the Vilcek Collection. London: Merrell, 2013, pp. 76-77, 241, 267, ill. p. 77.
Pochoda, Elizabeth. “Freedom and the abstract truth: Jan and Marica Vilcek’s collection of American modernist art,” The Magazine Antiques (May/June 2013), ill. pp. 97, 99.
O’Hern, John. “Modern Manor,” American Fine Art Magazine, September/October 2013, ill. p. 56.