Marsden Hartley was born in Maine to English emigrant parents whose early death left him to be raised by a succession of relatives, all relatively impoverished. From this unlikely and emotionally wounding upbringing, Hartley became one of America’s great modern artists, a pioneer of abstract painting. Perhaps because his childhood was so terrible, Hartley always seemed to be looking for an “artistic” home, passing through many distinct phases in his art before ending his career with a return to Maine. Restlessly ambitious and determined to make an imprint on American culture, Hartley was also a writer and a not-inconsiderable poet. He was hindered by his self-consciousness, and this lends his verse—as it did his art—a mannered tone that could be didactic or hectoring.