WEATHERBOUND: The Art of Jay Hall Connaway In Our Time

by Ruth Greene-McNally



 

Object labels

 
Coast & Countryside
 
 
Jay Hall Connaway (1893-1970)
Incoming Surf
1924
Oil on board
Courtesy of Orland Campbell, Jr.
 
Aptly titled for several reasons, "Incoming Surf" was completed after Connaway returned to the United States following his tour of duty during World War I and subsequent studies at Academie Julien and Ecole des Beaux Arts in Paris. A chance meeting on the homebound ship with Frederick Keppel, a print dealer and executive with Carnegie Corporation led to an introduction at Macbeth Gallery, the leading New York gallery showcasing American artists. With encouragement from Robert Macbeth, and financial backing from artists Frederick Waugh, Paul Dougherty, and Emil Carlsen, Connaway, seeking to paint the "the lonely sea," lived on the deserted island of Head Harbor off the coast of Jonesport, Maine between 1923 and 1925. He exhibited annually at Macbeth and other New York galleries, to critical acclaim and increasing sales, until the stock market crash of 1929 and the Great Depression impacted the economy.
 
Connaway's distinct, virile brushwork is equal to his engagement with the natural elements.
 
 
Jay Hall Connaway (1893-1970)
Relentless Pounding
1932
Oil on Artboard
Collection of People's United Bank, Bennington, Vermont
 
 
Jay Hall Connaway (1893-1970)
Monhegan Cliffs
c. 1935
Oil on board
Courtesy of J. Drew Deeley
 
 
Jay Hall Connaway (1893-1970)
Storm -- Monhegan Island
c. 1935
Oil on Masonite
Courtesy of J. Drew Deeley
 
 
Jay Hall Connaway (1893-1970)
Moonlight Sea
c. 1935
Oil on canvas board
Southern Vermont Arts Center, Permanent Collection
Gift of Elizabeth Hutchings
 
 
Jay Hall Connaway (1893-1970)
Monhegan, Maine Dock
1937
Oil on canvas board
Southern Vermont Arts Center, Permanent Collection
Gift of Aloise Boker
 
A former Coastguardsman, Connaway understood the perils of the sea and rarely painted idyllic seascapes, however he frequently represented the Monhegan dock in brighter circumstances. Twelve miles off the coast of the Pemaquid Point, the Monhegan Island dock is a hub of daily activity where fishing vessels moor and mainland ferries arrive and depart with cargo, mail, and visitors.
 
Connaway generally depicted a lone figure in the foreground of his dockside views, signifying the independent lifestyle of islanders and the artist's emotional presence in this remote environment.
 
 
Jay Hall Connaway (1893-1970)
Green Breaker
1940
Oil on canvas
Private collection
 
 
Jay Hall Connaway (1893-1970)
Green Sea
c. 1940
Oil on canvas board
Southern Vermont Arts Center, Permanent Collection
Gift of Mrs. J.H. Connaway
 
 
Jay Hall Connaway (1893-1970)
Rolling In
c. 1941
Oil on illustration board
Southern Vermont Arts Center,
Permanent Collection
 
 
Jay Hall Connaway (1893-1970)
Man on Rock
c. 1942
Oil on Masonite
Courtesy of Mary and Henry Holt
 
Connaway identified with the strenuous way of life of fishermen and their tenuous dependence on bounty.
 
The influence of George Bridgman (1865-1943), Connaway's figure drawing teacher at the Art Students League, is apparent in this and similar works representing the figure. Bridgman represented the major masses of the body ­ head, thorax, and pelvis ­ as box-like "wedges" tied together with gestural lines to denote interconnecting structure.
 
Painted with broad, energetic brush strokes, Connaway's figures are gestural rather than anatomical and devoid of individual identity.
 
 
Jay Hall Connaway (1893-1970)
Fisherman on Quay
c. 1942
Oil on canvas board
Courtesy of Mary and Henry Holt
 
By this date Connaway had lived for more than a decade among islanders who made their living as fishermen, innkeepers, boat builders, and shopkeepers. In a volunteer capacity, Connaway charted the daily Monhegan tides and became adept at predicting weather patterns and accomplished in rendering breaking waves. To supplement his income, Connaway operated an art school during the summer months.
 
In this war-era composition, the silhouette figure was influenced by the compositions of 19th century German Romantic painter Casper David Friedrich, whose use of the rückenfigur -- meaning "dark figure" in allegorical landscape paintings featured contemplative wanderers in shadowy profile against dramatic vistas.
 
Connaway first represented figures in silhouette after World War I when he observed clerics and devotees knelt in prayer before crucifixes on the beaches at Brittany. In this painting, the dominant figure, a stand-in for the viewer, represents a secular trinity, a device aspiring to intimate exchange between figure, artist, and audience partaking equally in the vantage point and direct confrontation of uprising surf.
 
 
Jay Hall Connaway (1893-1970)
The Fish House Interior
c. 1942
Oil on canvas
Courtesy of Mary and Henry Holt
 
Jay Hall Connaway (1893-1970)
The Wreck of the D. T. Sheridan
1948
Oil on board
Courtesy of Ann and Tyler Resch
 
Connaway painted this view of the D.T. Sheridan after the ship ran aground in dense fog in November 1948. With assistance from islanders, all crewmembers were rescued. The ship's hull, predominantly intact, remains a permanent fixture on the rocky inlet at Lobster Cove.
 
Salvation is a prevalent theme in Connaway's paintings. Isolated figures in stark, unforgiving settings symbolize the gulf between human existence and nature and the artist's longing for resolution and reconciliation with his original family and an untamed world. The painting marks one of Connaway's sojourns to Monhegan Island following his relocation to Vermont after World War II.
 
Connaway balanced masculine natural elements with feminine counterpoints in his compositional designs.
 
 
Jay Hall Connaway (1893-1970)
Weatherbeaten
1952
Oil on Masonite
Southern Vermont Arts Center, Permanent Collection
Gift of Friends of the Artist
 
Connaway developed his windswept figure motif after visiting the Brittany coast following World War I. Several Bretagne beaches display monumental crucifixes known as Calvaries. The painter observed the rituals of clerics and devotees bent in petition of the iconic public statues.
 
In Weatherbeaten, Connaway's dramatic, naturalistic setting (the sea as muse) and the stylized portrayal of the female model (grace as salvation) draw upon classical and modernist symbols. Rendered in a traditional Contrapposto pose to accentuate the dynamic curvature of the torso, shoulders, and head, the figure approximates the expressive "body language" of weather-bent trees, equating the pliant character and structural symmetry of foliage to human anatomy. A female figure in outmoded apparel is represented as the sole witness to the storm, accentuating Connaway's alternating perspectives on traditional and Modernist values.
 
Oblique angles created by the brushwood and the dark silhouette figured ­ exclusive of individual identity ­ are suggestive of German Expressionist film noir, developed during the inter-war period and popularized in the United States in the 40s and 50s.
 
 
Jay Hall Connaway (1893-1970)
Surf Piling In
c. 1962
Oil on Bainbridge Board
Courtesy of Nan Leach
 
 
Jay Hall Connaway (1893-1970)
The Rock
c. 1962
Oil on Masonite
Courtesy of Mary and Henry Holt
 
 
The paintings titled The Rock, Surf Piling In, and Rocks and Sea represent work from Connaway's trip to Sonoma and Port Lobos, California. His first return to the West Coast since adolescence, Connaway ventured solo once again but pined for the company of his wife Louise, his "Kismet" (meaning fate or destiny) at home in Vermont.
 
The orange hues highlighting the rocks are characteristic of the longer wavelengths of light in the West and the reflection of ocean moisture in coastal skies. Orange and red coloration are prominent in the morning and evening. A proficient interpreter of the atmospheric conditions of the sea and sky, the setting and hour of day of Connaway's paintings are often identifiable by his color palette.
 
 
 
Jay Hall Connaway (1893-1970)
Rocks and Sea
c. 1962
Oil on Masonite
Courtesy of Mary and Henry Holt
 
 
Jay Hall Connaway (1893-1970)
Tree and Waves
1967
Oil on Masonite
Courtesy of J. Drew Deeley
 
 
Jay Hall Connaway (1893-1970)
After the Storm
1967
Oil on board
Courtesy of J. Drew Deeley
 
 
Jay Hall Connaway (1893-1970)
Mabel Williams' Farm
1926
Oil on Artists' board
Courtesy of Dr. Ray Foster
 
Connaway moved to Vermont in 1926 where he boarded at the Peru farmhouse pictured in this landscape. The following year, he exhibited with fellow Dorset Artists Edwin B. Child, Wallace W. Fahnstock, and Herbert Meyer in the Fourth Annual Exhibition of Arts of Southern Vermont at the Equinox Pavilion.
 
The influence of Connaway's early teachers, American Impressionists William Forsyth (1854-1935) and William Merritt Chase (1849-1916) is evident in the painting's composition and interpretive style. Oblique angles, established by the shrubs and tree line, draw attention to the settled farmstead in the middle ground. The grand scale of Stratton Mountain recedes in the distance. Like his Impressionist predecessors, Connaway used dim purple and black to emphasize light in early career work but the restrained brushwork and pale palette were uncommon compositional characteristics for Connaway following his military tour of duty. Several months into his stay in Peru, Connaway grew restless, returned to New York, divorced his wife Flora Sherman and in 1928 re-married Louise Boehl, a nurse and pianist. With financial backing from his patron Bartlett Arkell and his gallerist Robert Macbeth , Connaway and his bride departed for Brittany, France in 1929.
 
 
Jay Hall Connaway (1893-1970)
Peace Street -- Dorset, Vermont
c. 1947
Oil on Masonite
Courtesy of Mary and Henry Holt
 
 
Jay Hall Connaway (1893-1970)
Kelley's Farm, Dorset, Vermont
1948
Oil on Masonite
Southern Vermont Arts Center, Permanent Collection
Gift of Mrs. J.H. Connaway
 
 
Jay Hall Connaway (1893-1970)
Mountains at Sunderland
c. 1950
Oil on Masonite
Southern Vermont Arts Center, Permanent Collection
 
 
Jay Hall Connaway (1893-1970)
Stella's House
c. 1952
Oil on Masonite
Courtesy of Mary and Henry Holt
 
 
Jay Hall Connaway (1893-1970)
Barlow's Farm -- Dorset Hollow, VT
c. 1952
Oil on canvas board
Courtesy of Mary and Henry Holt
 
 
Jay Hall Connaway (1893-1970)
Spring, Vermont
c. 1952
Oil on canvas board
Courtesy of Mary and Henry Holt
 
 
Jay Hall Connaway (1893-1970)
Clouds -- Manchester
c. 1953
Oil on canvas
From Lyman Orton Collection, "Lost Vermont Images"
 
 
Jay Hall Connaway (1893-1970)
Searching Dorset Mountain
c. 1954
Oil on Artboard
Courtesy of Mary and Henry Holt
 
 
Jay Hall Connaway (1893-1970)
Revolutionary Farm -- Winter
1954
Oil on Masonite
Courtesy of Mary Harrison
 
 
Jay Hall Connaway (1893-1970)
Pawlet House -- Winter (Alternate title: Snowswept Boardwalk ­ Pawlet)
c. 1954
Oil on canvas
Private collection
 
 
Jay Hall Connaway (1893-1970)
View of Pawlet Bridge, Post Office, and Grist Mill
1962
Oil on canvas
Private collection
 
 
Jay Hall Connaway (1893-1970)
Pawlet Bridge Sketch
1962
Oil on Artboard
Courtesy of Mary and Henry Holt
 
 
Jay Hall Connaway (1893-1970)
Pawlet Road, Winter
c. 1966
Oil on Masonite
Southern Vermont Arts Center, Permanent Collection
 
Country living brought Connaway to express the harmonies and paradoxes of nature and human endeavor. In his Vermont landscapes, farmsteads and the natural environment are depicted as interrelated in a mood of solemnity. To portray the changeability of nature and fate, Connaway worked with a varied palette and abstract methods to accentuate the contrasts in the topography and the schematics of unpredictable skies.
 
The storm in this scene persists with unsettling impact on foliage and edifice. Representational imagery fades to abstraction; descriptive details of the setting retreat within an opaque, atmospheric backdrop. The roadway, eerily accessible, appears to dissolve into a hollow where heaven and earth converge.
 
Unbounded by the elements, Connaway painted in all seasons. In this late-career work, the painter summons the viewer to his most compelling thematic content enveloping nature's intensity and this quiet village scene.
 
 
Jay Connaway (1893-1970)
Sunburst on Pawlet, VT
c. 1966
Oil on canvas
Courtesy of Anton G. Hardy
 
Surrounding a harmonious assembly of countryside and town, Connaway's oblique brushwork in both Sunburst on Pawlet, VT and its companion piece, Thunderstorm in Hills, accentuates the spectacle in the sky. In the foregrounds of both paintings, nondescript "figures" with disproportionate heads appear hastily rendered. Connaway's curious motif demonstrates his practice in finding simpler forms to denote wind-swept clothing, hats, scarves, or hair.
 
Enigmatic, counter to compositional or intellectual logic, characters appear in Connaway's designs as apparitions, scarcely designated by more than a dash of contrasting color, leaves splashed in mid air, or a tree stump obscured, but they are none of these. Connaway's notions about humanity and nature became increasingly inexplicable in commonplace terms. He continued to represent human existence as incidental but intriguing, substantive but transitory, in comparison to elemental nature.
 
 
Jay Connaway (1893-1970)
Thunderstorm in Hills
c. 1966
Oil on canvas
Courtesy of Anton G. Hardy
 
 
Jay Hall Connaway (1893-1970)
Winter Quarry
c.1968
Oil on Masonite
Courtesy of Mary and Henry Holt
 
 
Heaven & Earth
 
 
Jay Hall Connaway (1893-1970)
Paris Nude
1917
Oil on board
Courtesy of J. Drew Deeley
 
One of few surviving paintings marking the period between Connaway's art training in New York and his studies in Paris, this oil sketch was created after the painter arrived in France to serve in the US Army Reserve Corps during the Great War.
 
Connaway adapted androgynous-looking figures for his religious-themed work. "Corpus Christi" (to the right), recreated in 1953 from an early Paris sketch was exhibited at Doll & Richards Gallery in Boston in 1954.
 
 
Jay Hall Connaway (1893-1970)
Male Nude
c. 1919
Pencil on paper
Courtesy of J. Drew Deeley
 
Following his honorable discharge from the service, and under the sponsorship of army doctors, Connaway attended the Academie Julien and Ecole des Beaux Arts between 1919 and 1921 where he created this detailed figure drawing known as an "académie."
 
Traditional academic art training demanded rigorous study and technical proficiency in the art of the "pastiche," the customary practice of copying prints by European masters; in addition to repetitive rendering of plaster casts of hands, feet, the torso, and head before students were allowed to draw directly from a live model.
 
 
Jay Hall Connaway (1893-1970)
Notre Dame Cathedral
1919
Oil on wood panel
Courtesy of Mary and Henry Holt
 
Connaway completed this view of Notre Dame while studying at Academie Julien. Impressionist in approach, the composition was created with lush horizontal, vertical, and diagonal brushstrokes. In contrast to Impressionist color theories, the palette is tonal and somber, indicative of psychological and naturalistic themes Connaway's explored after his tour of duty in France.
 
Representing the basilica under snowfall and comparing its relevance to a commonplace but equally marvelous feat of construction, the viaduct Pont de l'Archevêché (Archbishop's Bridge), Connaway de-emphasized the religious symbolism and grandeur of the French Gothic design.
 
The bridge is currently famous for its "love locks," padlocks carved with heart-shaped insignias of lovers who fasten the locks to the bridge's metalwork and toss the keys into the Seine below.
 
 
Jay Hall Connaway (1893-1970)
Two Cane Anna
1929
Oil on paper mounted on board
Collection of Martin Kaukas
 
 
Jay Hall Connaway (1893-1970)
Pont Aven and Boat
c. 1929
Watercolor and pencil on paper
Collection of Martin Kaukas
 
 
Jay Hall Connaway (1893-1970)
Two Breton Figures
c. 1929
Oil and conte crayon on board
Collection of Barbara Melhado
 
 
Jay Hall Connaway (1893-1970)
Breton Boy
1929
Watercolor, gouache, and conte crayon on brown paper
Collection of Barbara Melhado
 
 
Jay Hall Connaway (1893-1970)
Coastal Sea, Brittany
c. 1930
Oil on Masonite
Courtesy of J. Drew Deeley
 
 
Jay Hall Connaway (1893-1970)
The Iron Puddlers
c. 1942
Oil on Masonite
Collection of Martin Kaukas
After a German U-boat was sighted off the coast of Monhegan at the outbreak of the American involvement in the Second World War, many islanders sought living arrangements on the mainland.
 
Toward the war effort, the Connaways found jobs at American Car & Foundry Company in Berwick, Pennsylvania, the leading manufacturer of tanks. Connaway worked the assembly line but with little time to paint was later reassigned to draw tank parts for the company catalogue. He created this painting for the magazine cover.
 
Puddling was an industrial age process whereby pig iron was converted into wrought iron with the use of a reverberating furnace.
 
 
Jay Hall Connaway (1893-1970)
Corpus Christi
1953
Oil and ink on Masonite
Collection of Martin Kaukas
 
 
Jay Hall Connaway (1893-1970)
For This I Came to Earth
c. 1953
Oil, gouache, and, conte crayon on paper
Collection of Martin Kaukas
 
 
Jay Hall Connaway (1893-1970)
Crucifixion
Oil on canvas
1960
Collection of Martin Kaukas
 
 
National Academy of Design Certificate
Awarded to Jay Hall Connaway, 1943
Ink on paper
Courtesy of Mary and Henry Holt
 
 
Art Lectures Announcement
c. 1957
Ink on paper
Courtesy of Mary and Henry Holt
 
 
Jay Hall Connaway (1893-1970)
Connaway Studio, Monhegan Island, ME, Summer '50
1950
Watercolor and pencil on paper
Courtesy of Mary and Henry Holt
 
 
Attributed to Jay Hall Connaway (1893-1970)
Blue Shutters (Connaway Home, Monhegan Island)
c. 1940
Courtesy of Mary and Henry Holt
 
 
Unidentified Photographer
Jay Hall Connaway
c. 1929
Collection of Martin Kaukas
 
 
Unidentified Photographer
Jay Hall Connaway
c. 1969
Courtesy of Mary and Henry Holt
 
Summer Art Class Schedule, Jay Hall Connaway
Southern Vermont Arts Center
Ink on paper
Courtesy of Robert E. Deeley
 
 
Jay Connaway, Louise Connaway, Leonebel Connaway
Connaway Family Photo Album
c. 1929-1935
Photos on paper in wove cloth binder
Collection of Martin Kaukas
 
 
Connaway & His Contemporaries
 
 
John Steuart Curry
The Cloud, Vermont
1930
Oil on canvas
Southern Vermont Arts Center, Permanent Collection
Gift of Mr. and Mrs. Carl W. Painter
 
Curry was one of the mid-Western Regionalists that included Thomas Hart Benton and Grant Wood. Their art defined American Scene Painting during a period that also gave rise to Social Realism in the inner cities. These art movements, which prevailed during the Great Depression, sought to portray traditional American life and rural settings. They favored Realism over classical traditions and the tone of their work could be nationalist or critical.
 
Curry's free brushwork and lyrical style celebrate the history and everyday life of the artist's beloved home state and, in this work, his visit to the Vermont countryside.
 
 
Luigi Lucioni (1900-1988)
Within the Birch Grove
1957
Oil on canvas
Southern Vermont Arts Center, Permanent Collection
 
Born in Malnate, Italy, Luigi Lucioni became one of America's well-known landscape painters. His work has been noted for its heightened realism and photographic attention to detail.
 
After emigrating to the United States in 1911, Lucioni attended Cooper Union and the National Academy of Design. He maintained a studio in New York and, beginning in 1929, in Barre, Vermont and later Manchester Depot. Unlike Connaway's haunting and rugged views of wilderness, Lucioni represented the American landscape as tamed and bucolic.
 
 
Ogden Pleissner (1905-1983)
Galway Beach
c. 1954
Watercolor on paper
Southern Vermont Arts Center, Permanent Collection
 
Pleissner worked in both watercolor and oil and is best known for his genre scenes (everyday life and ordinary people) and field and stream themes.
 
During World War II, Pleissner painted views of the US Army Air Corps bases in the Aleutian Islands and England and also illustrated the Normandy invasion for Life magazine.
 
He maintained a studio in Pawlet, Vermont and later spent time in Europe where he painted urban and coastal views of France, England, and Ireland.
 
 
Leonebel Jacobs (1900- c. 1965)
Portrait of Jay Hall Connaway
c. 1926
Pastel on paper
Southern Vermont Arts Center, Permanent Collection
Gift of Mary Anne Lukas
 
During travels to China with her father, an attorney representing Sun Yat Sen, Jacobs created portraits of the Chinese royal family and later established herself as a prominent portrait painter of celebrities in New York.
 
Her poster art promoting the role of women during World War I is on display at the Library of Congress.
 
Jacobs and Connaway met in the mid-20s while sharing adjacent studio space in Manhattan. The Connaways' daughter Leonebel Marie Frances is her namesake. Jacobs retired to Manchester in 1955.
 
 
 
Virginia Webb (1920-2012)
Jay Connaway in His Studio
c. 1957
Oil on canvas
Southern Vermont Arts Center, Permanent Collection
Gift of the Artist
 
Virginia Webb studied art at Academie Julien in Paris, with Jay Connaway in Dorset, Vermont and with portrait painter Robert Brackman at the Art Students League. She is known for her nuanced portraits, energetic landscapes, and vibrant still-life work.
 
Webb's portrait of the artist represents Connaway focusing his attention on painting rather than facing the viewer.
 
 
Frederick Waugh (1861-1940)
Off Monhegan
c. 1911
Oil on canvas
Southern Vermont Arts, Center, Permanent Collection
 
Connaway and Waugh met in 1923 at Macbeth Gallery in New York City. Waugh, the son of Philadelphia portrait painter Samuel Waugh, studied at the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts and at Academie Julien in Paris. He painted on Mohegan Island between 1911 and 1914.
 
 
Wallace Fahnestock (1877-1962)
Cascade
Oil on canvas
Southern Vermont Arts, Center, Permanent Collection
 
One of the original Dorset Artists and a founding member of Southern Vermont Arts Center, Fahnestock painted landscapes in the Impressionist tradition. He maintained a studio and home on Lower Hollow Road in Dorset and also painted in Boston, Massachusetts.
 
 
Harriet G. Miller (1892-1971)
Mountains
1934
Oil on canvas
Southern Vermont Arts Center, Permanent Collection
 
Harriett Miller is primarily known for her sculpture in bronze and marble but also painted landscapes and floral still life. Miller studied at the Cleveland School of Art and Collège Jean Picart le Doux - Ministère de l'Éducation Nationale in Paris and was featured in many solo exhibitions at Kraushaar Galleries in New York, the Philadelphia Academy and the Chicago Art Institute. Her primary studio was in New York, but she was active in Paris and Vermont.
 

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