The fine arts are an important aspect of Gloucester 400th Plus in 2023.

Many of the leading American painters and sculptors, summered, settled, and taught primarily in Annisquam, East Gloucester/ Rocky Neck, Lanesville, Folly Cove, Rockport and nearby Magnolia.

A summary list reads like a who’s who of American art. There are the limners and sample makers. Then, in the 19th century; Fitz Henry Lane, William Morris Hunt, Winslow Homer. In the 20th century; Frank Duveneck, Stephen Parrish, Maxfield Parrish, Charles and Maurice Prendergast, Ellen Day Hale, Childe Hassam, Cecelia Beaux, John Twachtman and Leon Kroll. The sculptors include Anna Hyatt Huntington, Leonard Craske, Charles Grafly, Walker Hancock, Paul Manship, and George Demetrios whose wife, Virginia Lee Burton founded Folly Cove Designers. The modernists included Edward Hopper, Josephine Nivison Hopper,  Lillian Wescott Hale, John Sloan, Stuart Davis, Theresa Bernstein, William Meyerowitz, Marsden Hartley, Milton Avery, Gifford and Reynolds Beal. Notable seascape painters were Aldro T. Hibbard, Charles and Emile Gruppe, and Anthony Thieme. Then came the avant-garde, Hans Hoffmann, Nell Blaine, Mark Rothko, Adolph Gottlieb, Barnett Newman and photographer Aaron Siskind.

Cape Ann has a notable literary heritage starting with the classic tale of the sea Captains Courageous is an 1897 novel by Rudyard Kipling. Notable writers and poets include T. S. Eliot (1888-1965), Vincent Ferrini (1913-2007), Charles Olson (1910-1970), Gerrit Lansing (1928-2018), Jill Babson Carter, and Peter Anastas (1937-2019).

The primary inspiration for artists and writers is proximity to the sea and its fisheries. This has provided inspiration and subject matter. There was the factor of affordability. With the exception of the gated mansions of Eastern Point and upscale Annisquam, there was a longstanding availability of cheap summer rentals, hotels, rooming houses, sail lofts (when the fleet converted to diesel) and fishing shacks. Even elitist Annisquam, until the post-war era, was primarily a working class, fishing community and affordable destination for artists.

In recent years there has been an influx of condo developments that have pushed up real estate prices flipping ethnic neighborhoods of fishermen. There has been the parallel erosion of the fleet now dwindled to a handful of vessels. The economy has morphed from fishing to tourism and support for upscale condo owners.

There is a generic, five unit condo development in East Gloucester. It overlooks an abutting gas station. So far, two units have sold for $900,000 each. Workers and young couples are priced out of affordable housing.

Despite the influx of new money residents, and an expanded tax base, the population of Gloucester remains stable at 32,000. But try to tell that to locals when there are traffic jams and mobbed beaches during the summer season.

There is a perception that since the avant-garde decamped post WWII, the arts are confined to seascapes and kitsch. Despite economic challenges there is a tenacious community of artists, writers and performers who are dug in and thriving. They are doing their own creative work under the radar of tourism.

While I grew up in Annisquam there was much to learn regarding the depth and significance of its heritage in the fine arts. For that I am grateful for access to Susan Erony’s impeccable, unpublished art history of Cape Ann. She was generous in sharing this resource.

Erony starts with the limners. “The three folk artists who were of most note in Gloucester were Susanna Paine (1792-1862), Alfred James Wiggin (1823-1883) and Addison Center (1830-1892). Susanna Paine was an amazing woman. She lived hand to mouth, as did most artists in the 1830s and ‘40s, serving the needs of the day for documentary portraits.”

Erony makes a compelling case for Paine, an artist I was unfamiliar with. I was energized to encounter a single work, a nearly life-size portrait of a woman displayed at the Cape Ann Museum. “Susanna Paine did portraits in Connecticut, Rhode Island, Massachusetts, New Hampshire and Maine, first pastels, then oils. Her portraits are bold and straightforward with large areas of color, and her sitters solid and confident. Sitters are usually in a standard half-length pose, with eyes often too large and doe-like, faces often too round and modeled, flesh very white, and hands elongated and unconvincing. Objects, sometimes used to show the sitter’s interests, are awkwardly placed, but the detail is elaborate in clothing, hair and jewelry.”

The heart and soul of the museum is its depth in work by Fitz Henry Lane (1804-1865). It commands several galleries on the ground floor. Arguably, Lane is Gloucester’s most important and best known native artist.

He was born Nathaniel Rogers Lane which he changed to Fitz Henry in 1831. Lanesville is named for his family which settled in 1707. Through childhood disease he was disabled and got around with crutches. He first apprenticed as a lithographer. As a painter he was primarily self taught but  may have studied with the marine painter Robert Salmon (1775-1845).

He became prosperous enough to design and have built a three story granite house overlooking Gloucester harbor. It stands alone today with its once colorful neighborhood of bars, brothels, and rooming houses leveled by urban renewal. A bronze sculpture by Al Duca depicts him seated at work.

From on site sketches he completed work in the studio. In addition to numerous paintings of Gloucester harbor and its details he sailed up and down the coast creating renderings of ports from Boston to Maine. He also did commissioned paintings of prominent Gloucester homes. For its stillness and crisp detail his work is associated with the movement of Luminism. He also created paintings that depicted vessels caught in storms at sea.

In the museum’s galleries dedicated to Lane we were intrigued to encounter copies of his paintings by his only known student Mary Blood Mellen (1819-1886). Scholars have documented that she progressed to collaborate on at least one know work, a tondo. While she didn’t develop her own style her assimilation of Lane’s in remarkable. Research on their relationship and collaboration is ongoing.

Attracted by Lane other luminists who worked on Cape Ann include Francis Augustus Silva (1835-1886), Martin Johnson Heade (1819-1904) and Sanford Robinson Gifford (1823-1880).

Joan of Arc by Anna Hyatt Huntington

Walker Hancock

Painter Leon Kroll

Leon Kroll Self Portrait

Sculptor Anna Hyatt Huntington

Anna Hyatt Huntington

Sculptor Charles Grafly

Sculptor Charles Grafly

Artists Jay Jaroslav and Susan Erony

Artist Gabrielle Barzaghi

Artist and historian Bing McGilvray

Developer and arts philanthropist Geoff Richon

Fisherman's Memorial by Leonard F. Craske (1882-1950), Giuliano photo

Of these artists the most important one was Heade. He was discovered by the collector Maxim Karolik (1893-1963) who with his wife, Martha Catherine Codman Karolik (1858 – 1948), was a major donor to the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston. As his primary scholar, Theodore E. Stebbins, Jr., recently discussed Heade in a zoom lecture at Olana, the Frederick Edwin Church, home and museum. Heade had a complex and varied career. The Cape Ann Museum has a remarkable example of his marsh scenes. He is also known for orchids and hummingbirds as well as numerous landscapes in Florida. 

The work which best identifies Winslow Homer (1836-1910) with Gloucester, which he first visited in 1873, is the painting “Breezing Up (A Fair Wind)” 1876. Owned by the Metropolitan Museum of Art, it depicts three capped boys, and an old salt wearing foul weather gear, in a catboat. The grizzled fisherman mans the sheet while a cross-legged boy sits casually with the tiller.

The lads evoke the poem “The Barefoot Boy” by John Greenlief Whittier (1807-1892) or the Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn characters of Mark Twain (1835-1910). A bachelor, these idyllic scampy lads populate the works of Homer and other American genre paintings. Perhaps they are metaphors of lost innocence after the ravages of the Civil War which Homer knew first hand. Significantly, the transom of the small sailboat is emblazoned with “Gloucester.” 

As America entered the Gilded Age, those seeking careers as artists studied at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, the School of the Museum of Fine Arts Boston, and other academies. From there they often matriculated to schools in Paris, The American Academy in Rome, and Munich. 

While Richard Morris Hunt (1827-1895) became a leading architect of his generation, his brother William Morris Hunt (1824-1879) fell under the spell of the Barbizon painters, particularly, Jean Francois Millet (1814-1875). He purchased one of his best known works “The Sower.” Through Hunt, it and a number of Barbizon works came to the MFA because of his influence over Boston collectors.

From 1874, until his death by drowning in 1879, Hunt visited Magnolia a hamlet just over the cut bridge and up the line from Gloucester. There were recently constructed hotels and cottages.

The soft toned Barbizon style celebrated the rural and was prescient in depicting the role of women as equal partners to men in farm labor. It conveyed a mild mannered, humanistic view of peasant life. That idealism is reflected in Hunt’s work which he conveyed to his primarily female students. These included Ellen Day Hale (1855-1940) and Hunt’s protégée Helen M. Knowlton (1832-1918). The school continued under Knowlton until 1884. There were also classes in Annisquam. 

Another notable teacher who drew students to Gloucester was Frank Duveneck (1848-1914) a peer of William Merritt Chase (1849-1916). Born in Kentucky and raised in Cincinnati, in 1869, he went abroad to study at the Royal Academy of Munich. He learned a dark, realistic, and direct style of painting that was a break from the Hudson River and Luminist styles. He took his students, known as “The Duveneck Boys,” to Venice where they were befriended and exploited by James Abbott McNeill Whistler (1834-1903).  There is a striking bronze bust of Duveneck by Charles Grafly (1862-1929) in the Cape Ann Museum. Overall, as artist and teacher, Duveneck was a significant presence in Gloucester.

In 1875 some fifteen of Hunt’s students painted apple blossoms in Annisquam. Winslow Homer passed through as did Cecilia Beaux between 1900 and 1906. In 1901 the illustrious illustrator N. C. Wyeth (1882-1945) summered in Annisquam. His artist son Andrew was born in 1917. 

There was another famous father and son presence in Gloucester/ Annisquam. As Erony informs us “ Philadelphia native Stephen Parrish (1846 – 1938), was one of the most important American etchers of the 1880s.” He went to Europe at 21 to study art. “His many etchings of Gloucester bely his primary reputation as the father of his more famous son, painter and illustrator Maxfield Parrish (1870-1966). Stephen Parrish began to study etching in 1879 and by 1880, the year of his first trip to Cape Ann, was proficient in the medium. He stayed first at the Fairview Inn in East Gloucester, and then went to Annisquam. By 1883, he was recognized as one of the three greatest etchers in America, along with Charles A. Platt (1861 – 1933), who studied etching with Parrish and J. M. Whistler. In 1880, Platt and Parrish were in Gloucester together.

”Parrish’s work grew in popularity, and was shown and sold nationally. The forty-two etchings of Gloucester he did between 1879 and 1889 give us a picture of maritime activity in Gloucester outside of the downtown waterfront. Parrish was successful enough to take his family to Europe in 1883 and instruct his young son Maxfield in art in its grand museums. The two later shared a seaside studio in Annisquam for two summers in 1892 and 1893.”

A lesser known couple associated with Annisquam are the painter, watercolorist George Wainwright Harvey (1855-1930), and his wife the photographer, Martha Hale Harvey (1863-1949). They were both born in Gloucester and resided in Annisquam which entailed their primary subject.

An accessible and populist form of American Impressionism was represented in Gloucester in 1890 with the first of twenty-nine summers for Childe Hassam (1859-1935). He created some of the most engaging and delicately hued paintings of Gloucester harbor. Like many Americans of his generation he studied in Paris at The Académie Julian. A prolific artist he left an oeuvre of some 3,000 paintings.

Maurice Brazil Prendergast (1858 –1924), who with his brother Charles Prendergast (1863-1948) is also associated with Gloucester, studied in Paris from 1891-1895. He returned to Boston but was in Venice three years later. His unique style advanced beyond French impressionism. In 1908 he showed at Macbeth Gallery with “The Eight” five of whom comprised the Ashcan School a precursor of the politics and style of Social Realism. The Williams College Museum of Art has numerous works by the brothers Prendergast.

Stylistically, he showed with but had little in common with the urban realists Robert Henri (1865–1929), George Luks (1867–1933), William Glackens (1870–1938), John Sloan (1871–1951), and Everett Shinn (1876–1953). Some of them met studying together at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts; others met in the newspaper offices of Philadelphia where they worked as illustrators. Gloucester’s Theresa Bernstein (1890-2002), who studied at the Philadelphia School of Design for Women, was also a part of the Ashcan School. 

Sloan and Bernstein, as well as Stuart Davis (1892-1964), Marsden Hartley (1877-1943), Edward (1882-1967) and Jo Nivison (1883-1968) Hopper would form the nucleus of the next and expanded generation of artists to live and work in Gloucester. It was an era impacted by the Great Wars Prohibition and Depression. Impacted by the Armory Show of 1913 these artists brought American modernism to Cape Ann.