Smithsonian American Art Museum
8th and F Streets, NW
1st Floor, Lobby Floor Plan
On view is a painting (c. 1932) by the American artist based on the theory of creation expounded by Paracelsus, a Swiss doctor and mystic of the 16th century. Paracelsus believed that everything evolved from a base matter he called "Yliaster," which divided itself into earth, air, fire, and water. Hartley's painting renders this concept of creation in ancient, pre-Cambrian Mexico, featuring the fiery volcano Popocatepetl, an Aztec sunstone, and a placid pool and fountain.