For the American modernist John Marin (1870–1953), best known for his luminous watercolors of rural Maine and urban New York, drawing was central. Becoming John Marin: Modernist at Work offers the viewer an inside look at the process behind his abstract watercolors and etchings.

Selected primarily from the outstanding collection of 290 drawings and watercolors donated to the Arkansas Arts Center by the artist’s daughter-in-law, Norma Marin, in 2013, the exhibition features rarely exhibited studio working drawings alongside finished pieces. Augmented by examples of Marin's drawings, watercolors, etchings, and oil paintings from the distinguished collection of San Antonio businessman and philanthropist Charles Butt, the exhibition spans nearly every aspect of Marin's long career, tracing his transformation from an avid young draftsman to the famed modernist who showed each year in Alfred Stieglitz’s succession of Manhattan galleries.

The works vary from dynamic depictions of Manhattan structures and Maine landscapes to lesser-known figures: bustling urban crowds, portraits, and circus animals and performers in motion. The exhibition is accompanied by a fully illustrated catalog of the center’s complete, newly conserved John Marin Collection.