Artists of Cape Ann: A 150 Year Tradition

by Kristian Davies

Selected Biographies


Frederick J. Mulhaupt

1871 - 1938


Mulhaupt is regarded as one of the finest artists to work on Cape Ann, a member of the "imported" group who were not indigenous to Massachusetts nor the greater New England area. Despite Mulhaupt's distant origins in the Midwest where he spent many years before traveling, he is regarded as "the Dean of the Cape Ann School."

Born in Rock Port, Missouri, Mulhaupt's early years were spent around the Kansas-Missouri border region, sometimes in areas still viewed as "Indian country." His first career-oriented job was with a magazine in the now legendary Dodge City. But a change in aspirations eventually found him taking courses at the Kansas City School of Design. By the early 1890's Mulhaupt had made his way to Chicago, at the time the only place of opportunity for aspiring artists in the Midwest, studying at the Art Institute. Mulhaupt spent many years in Chicago, helping to found the Chisel and Palette Club and eventually becoming a teacher at the Art Institute. By 1904 he had made the leap and settled in New York, joining the Salmagundi Club.

However, like many budding young American painters, Mulhaupt's most important decision was to study in France. Little is known of his stay or the exact itinerary of his travels, but surviving pictures from France and England, especially St. Ives, mark a new era for the painter. These were the first hints of his remarkable aptitude for coastal and harbor images, laying the foundation for his years in Cape Ann.

Upon returning to the United States, Mulhaupt took his first trip to Gloucester in 1907. His technique had matured considerably in the previous years, and in the harbors of Cape Ann he found a visual tableau of light, color and texture that he had been waiting for all of his life, as he had once described that Gloucester "duplicates any views I care to paint."[18] From then on, Mulhaupt spent most of his summers in the region, exhibiting at the Gallery-on-the-Moors in five of the first seven exhibitions. He was also a founding member of the North Shore Arts Association. By 1923, no other areas could lure Mulhaupt away, and he settled in Gloucester, eventually buying a former blacksmith's shop on Rocky Neck where he painted year round, despite the lack of running water in the winter.

Unlike many of his contemporaries, Mulhaupt was not a plein air painter, despite the spontaneous, on location style of many of his larger pictures. He was a very careful, methodical artist who did highly detailed sketches outdoors, returning to his studio where a majority of his larger pictures were produced. Few of his contemporaries were as skilled in complex compositions and subtleties of color, especially in capturing the myriad of whites and greys characteristic of his winter harbor scenes.

Although he had the deepest respect of his students who recall his encouraging style of instruction, always critiquing but never altering their canvases, they also remember him as being a very quiet, perhaps introverted man who preferred painting alone to socializing in artists' circles. He was from a more traditional, conservative era of American painters who preferred hard work rather than its symbols. Often business dealings. and the sale of his pictures were left to his wife; he was too consumed by the thought of his next creation. As Charles Movalli describes Mulhaupt:

"He's like a host of other fine American painters who painted and moved on, leaving a newspaper obituary behind them. They were independent entrepreneurs, men and women who wanted to paint and who cultivated nature rather than dealers and public relations men."[19]


(above: The Green Boat, ca. 1920s, oil on panel 12 x 46 inches, Private Collection. Photo courtesy of Davies Fine Arts)


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Note: Only one of the pictures accompanying the above selected biography from the book is included here.

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