“In Herman Maril’s paintings, the artist captured forms at their most essential. In “Sail Boat, Green Sun” (1963). a triangular swath of green and a descending block of sandy yellow represent a cliff; the sun is a glowing chartreuse orb. The minimal, the painting is not without feeling. It seems to say, “If life were perfect, it would be like this.”
Art and Antiques
“Maril (1908-1986) was an independent American original in an era of groups and movements like Abstract Expressionism and Pop Art. The fishermen, docks, and beaches of the Cape were characteristic subjects in Maril’s work. His strongest stylistic affiliation was to such French modernists as Henri Matisse, Paul Cézanne, and Georges Braque.Through these years, Maril developed his distinctive spare, lyrical style of American modernism. Boldly drawing in ink wash became a favorite medium for him. He created a unique body of work depicting his favorite places in Maryland, Massachusetts and abroad.”
Austin R. Williams
Senior Editor, Drawing Magazine
March 17, 2017
“His simplified subjects and abstracted environments result in visual elegance. His paintings emphasize clarity and simplicity, achieved through broad, flat color masses is a style related to cubism.”
owner, Berta Walker Gallery
“The Herman Maril show in David Findlay Jr.’s magnificent new space on 5th avenue (just below 57th street) is quite simply a painter’s delight. Everything in these paintings is laid back and understated in an American Modernist sort of way. On face value the work depicts domestic interiors or reductive landscapes. The thread-worn phrase “less is more’ is revitalized by the truth of it expressed in these pieces. Maril applies just the right amount of economy whether to the simplicity of the forms or the quiet intensity of his palette. As a result these paintings seductively draw you in with an unobtrusive lusciousness.”
“Baltimore-based artist Herman Maril was a modernist painter whose gently and humanist style reduces figures and objects to their essence --- with an emphasis on color, mood and light. His subjects range from urban landscapes to coastal seascapes ---- frequently nature-based, abstractly organized , and elegantly simplified in form and content. Maril captured something intimate and personal about these scenes, creating a wonderful sense of place.”
David Findlay Jr. Gallery, N.Y. 2011
“Herman Maril was one of the few Baltimore-born artists of his generation to earn a national reputation. He was very much part of the second generation of modernist artists in this country who worked to develop an American style. A contemplative artist, balancing intellect with intuition, he created on canvas what he saw, eliminating all but the barest essentials. In many of his mature works, his compositions on first glance seem to have been reduced to juxtaposed fields of color.”
William R. Johnston
Curator of Maril exhibition
The Walters Art Museum, 2009
“At the heart of Maril's paintings, especially in the 1960 and 1970s, is a wonderful fabric of color and design.”
Walters Art Museum
Baltimore Md., 2009
“Maril's stylistic journey is reminiscent of the Renaissance, has roots in Cubism, moves into Modernism, and results in a simple elegance, undefinable within an art historical context. Reserved, simple, essential, core, subtle, distinct, pictorial and elemental -- all terms that have been used to describe Maril's work, yet the overall effect is one that allows the viewer to experience details that have been extracted, to see space and form become one, to achieve visual pleasure through color and attain a lyrical rhythm.”
Christine M. McCarthy
Provincetown Art Association and Museum, 2008
“Maril's elegantly sparse paintings often provided just enough information to provoke the eye to make its own assumptions. His palette is warm, with passages of flat tone. Maril had a fascination with space, like the endless blue depth of a summer's day. His careful tonal composition gently pulls the viewer in.”
Boston Globe, September 2008
“Maril’s eye was constantly responding to the wonder and delight he found in the visual world. He loved the sea, dunes and rocks or Provincetown, the tidal flats and boats, fish forms and fishnets. He liked domestic views, interiors with door and window openings, table tops with flowers, studio vignettes with palettes, pigments and paintings. He was moved by tree forms, mountain views, the thrust of as road into a landscape, the relation of figures to landscapes and architectural settings.”
Smithsonian Museum of American Art
“In each phase of Herman Maril’s career, he rededicated himself to art, but with sea-changes as his skill increased and his depth of insight became more profound. Notwithstanding, at each turn, through pictorially evolving deep inside his art and himself, Herman Maril remained unchanging in his attitudes toward inner experience vis-à-vis a changing world.”
National Gallery of Art
“Herman Maril was an American artist of extraordinary stature. I underscore the description ‘American’ because Maril personifies the art of this country of mid-20th century - highly individualistic, expressive, and rich in social relevance. Maril represents the innovative spirit of the American painter who, while fighting the overwhelming influence of Picasso's Cubism and various European expressionistic modes, pounded out an American vision inspired by the uniqueness of this culture. Our admiration for the talent of Herman Maril could not be greater, for in him we see the very best America has to offer.”
Butler Institute of American Art
Youngstown, Ohio, 1998
“The synthesis of lyricism and formalism is at the heart of Maril’s work. To look properly at a painting by Herman Maril, especially at one of the seascapes for which he is perhaps best known, is to engage in a three-step process akin to the artist’s own process of creation.
And indeed in observing a Maril work one comes finally to return. After the initial pleasure in the scene, after the recognition of the artist’s abstract qualities, comes a realization that scene and structure combine to produce a statement of joy in the natural world and identify with it.
In that the paintings also reflected the artist: He, too, was wonderful to have in the room. He loved the company of his friends and preferred pursuing his career quietly among them to pushing himself in art circles. He gained national recognition without that, as shows in Washington, New York and elsewhere and his inclusion in museum collections attest. But if art was the most important thing in his life, it was never all of it. There was plenty left over for his family, friends his students, and community.”
Baltimore Sun, 1986
“Herman Maril defies traditional categorizations as an artist. He belongs to no particular school of art even though a consistent level of continuity becomes evident as we trace the development of his work. During the years of the Great Depression he was neither a social realist nor an American Scene painter, and during the 1940s and 1950s he made no effort to adopt the Abstract Expressionist idiom. In later years he did not reflect pop, op, photo-realism or any of the numerous other “isms” which gained wide popularity. Instead, he has always chose to go his own way, independently of the prevailing trends of the moment.”
Howard E. Wooden
Wichita Art Museum, 1984
“Those who have seen his paintings have met him unknowingly. His works present a complete and accurate knowledge of the man whose character and tender humanity are so well represented by the envoy of his art.”
Curator, Twentieth-Century Painting and Sculpture
National Museum of American Art, 1983
“Herman Maril has remained steadfast in his artistic treatment of persons, places and things. This long constancy has about its product a serene cast, a quietism in which the spell of art is encouraged to work its magic. The resulting canvases, expansive and semi-empty, invite the viewer to ponder the subtleties of paint application, color tonalities, and compositional ploys the way one might listen to the more subdued passages in a nature depicting tone poem by composer Claude Debussy.
“Extremely abstract in their overall structure, these canvases nevertheless deal with quite explicit places and things, days and seasons…. Maril uses a kind of visual shorthand giving us just enough information to tell us where we are, while at the same time freeing him to deal with the painterly delights of shape, tonalities, and hue.”
Art Magazine, April 1980
“Maril’s technique, his style, is an accretion , too, he wears his modernism like a friendly old coat that has acquired its own set of echoes from the air ---- echoes that have bit by bit assumed a particular unmistakable shape. The more you look the more you see.”
Washington Post, 1977
“Maril creates subtle, elegantly organized, deeply felt nature paintings. The viewer gets the impression that the artist has immersed himself in sand, sky, forest. marshland, and the rhythms of the sea, then distilled the essence of experience into a series of strongly geometric symbols.
Roofs, pine tress, figures on the beach, birds and boats are little more than oblique angles, yet the paintings are spared that brittleness which often haunts works with a predisposition toward cubism.
Once we have perceived Maril’s able organization of space, his tightly knit compositions, and his economy of means, we may direct our attention toward the serenity exuded by these works, their lyrical, whole and harmonious quality.
It should also be noted that Maril is a gifted colorist. His thin pigment hugs the texture of the canvas, increasingly clear and lucid with the years, although his surfaces are built on layer.”
Baltimore Sun, October 24, 1965
“No one can touch Maril for simplicity of expression and for his ability to hold forms in space without losing the picture plane.”
Leslie Judd Ahlander
Washington Post, January 29, 1961
“Each Maril canvas is, by virtue of its simplicity, a striking object; the forms are spare and reduced to their salient; the colors are quietly disposed, wrenching neither the eye nor the credibility; the composition is contained and unostentatiously “right”. The total arrangement may be perceived almost at a glance. Yet there is unfailingly something personal that recalls the viewer to closer scrutiny. He finds himself demanding, if at all, the simplicity that might be misleading.
And so it is. Maril’s formal components are indeed spare (although never austere), with that refinement and elegance of conception of which only a master is capable of. While there is little direct connection between Mr. Maril’s art and that of eighteenth century China, there is a common attitude the function of the object on the plane surface, a conviction that reality is intrinsic in the painting rather than a literal fidelity to the object as object. …….It is as a colorist that Herman Maril is particularly distinguished. Few artists today would chance the lyric pastels that have marked his work ….Maril by the strength of his imaginative response to sky, sea, cliffs, and tress brings each tone into balance with the past ….. Some rare alchemy has been wrought to his mixing.
But if it is as a colorist he is most widely known, it is his gift for composition that makes him a “painter’s painter”. The refinement and strength of his forms, the strange harmony of his colors, all these components of painting, important in themselves, but meaningless without the greater context of the total picture …. It is in the process of integrating form, color, space and design that the artist is found. And it is in this process of integration that Herman Maril is at his best. What first appears to be a casual arrangement remains iron-clad in its strength on the most intensive scrutiny. When it yields its secret, we are likely to be astonished at the underlying complexity of the formal plan. The flattened planes, the sequential shapes confirmed with color, the negative areas that bind the whole, are the conjunct gifts of a born painter – but a born painter who has not scorned the pragmatics of his craft.”
Kenneth B. Sawyer
Baltimore Sun, September 1957
“There is an orderly sense of structure and balanced tonal composition about the paintings of Herman Maril ….. With appreciation for Cezanne and formal principles there is a personal feeling for subject matter.”
New York Herald Tribune, November 8, 1953
“Although the work of Herman Maril is semi-abstract in style, the artist has a deep feeling for nature and form. That deep feeling creates canvases that communicate quiet and peaceful poetry.”
The Artist Digest, April 1, 1951
“There is a strong individuality in his painting. Once familiar with his style, one will probably recognize it with ease, no matter how different the subjects depicted……He employs a modern idiom, simplifying his paintings to make each statement as concise as possible. But as there is little or no distortion in his work, one knows what he is saying, and finds much of it satisfying.”
Florence S. Berryman
Washington Post, 1943
“Herman Maril has, to a large extent, followed his own course in the development of modernist painting practice. He displays a natural gift of style, a sensitive intuition of contemporary plastic values, and unfailing good taste. An interesting course can be traced through his painting from its earliest appearance in the thirties to its latest manifestations; from a precisionism of line and color, suggesting influences of Picasso and Matisse, to greatly enriched formal syntheses with more deeply felt life content. Simplification and clarity are the essence of his maturing style; but from the French moderns he went back to the Sienese primitives to study the secret of visual and emotional communication, and to the Renaissance figure. Piero della Francesco, for aid in the geometry form; he gradually added colors and graduations of colors to give weight to his volumes and depth to his space. Meantime, the progress in his work and its promise are in a direction determined by his ambition to paint American life, its meaning, and its sentiment, without resort to superficial devices or naturalistic appeals.”
Martha Candler Chaney
Modern Art in America, 1939
“The first paintings by Maril which I remember seeing in Baltimore’s galleries marked his as one who possessed a distinctive vision, a fresh feeling, a delicate taste, a highly individual mode of expression and a capacity of self-discipline remarkable in so youthful an exhibitor. From the outset he seemed to recognize and concern himself with the fundamental problems of painting. His economy of means and his avoidance of false notes and stridencies were as notable as his skill in the deft and subtle management of spatial relationships and his ability to derive really striking and original effects from the nice manipulation of formal elements. In short, the intelligence with which he painted enabled him quickly to develop what could be properly called style.”
Baltimore Sun, 1939
“Herman Maril’s painting is reserved, and like most good painting, it is simple. He is interested in essentials. Each picture has its core; each is beautifully conceived and organized; each is distinct in mood. He is a careful craftsman, whether he is painting large oils, or one of his charming and individual little gouches. Unlike many moderns who use semi-abstraction, Maril always achieves mood, whether his subject is a boat on sand, a tent under a stormy sky, a nude, two horses, or a band concert at night. Each picture is a distinct experience. The subject is “brought out”. It is clothed in certain poetry, a certain meaning that is essentially pictorial.
His observation is acute, but its statement is reduced to the bare necessities of expression….He frequently clothes these simplified concepts with subtle color and tone, a variety of handling, a poetry and mood that intensifies one’s pleasure and delight in the structure. This is not anomalous but it is surprising. It is spiced art; it teases and attracts. His relation to Picasso and the modern geometric painters reminds me of Chasseriau’s to Ingres. In both cases there is a poetic and romantic enrichment of an obviously calculated structure.
These sophisticated yet simple harmonies draw one’s mind and imagination on; they make one improvise on their contours and colors. They grow in one’s memory. The picture does not stop at the canvas; it stimulates creation in the observer. Only good pictures do this.”
The American Magazine of Art, 1935