Painting Summer in New England

April 22 - September 4, 2006



Essay labels for the exhibition:

Alphabetical by artist surname


Beatrice Cuming, Saturday Night New London, c. 1936

Cuming studied art in Paris and lived in Tunisia before settling in New London, Connecticut, in 1934. Her art flourished there due to the financial support from the federal government's New Deal art programs. This work depicts a crowded street during a summer weekend in a port city. Building on the realism of New York's Ashcan School, Cuming maintained that style's edginess. Her composition shows curious loners as well as convivial groups, mixing races, classes, and different ages groups in an unaffected, unsentimental jumble.


Stuart Davis, Ebb Tide, Provincetown, 1913

Davis was 19 when he made this dramatic, lonely picture, which reflects the influence of Vincent van Gogh's expressionist style. The painting incorporates much that inspired him to return often to coastal Massachusetts: the powerful effects of light, the bold forms and sharp lines of the setting, and the frankness of ordinary life. A New Yorker, Davis held strong views about social equity; in this period he produced covers and illustrations for the radical magazine The Masses.


Maria Oakey Dewing, Iris at Dawn, 1899

Dewing's lovingly detailed painting portrays a treasured bed of iris in her backyard garden in Cornish, New Hampshire. She and her husband, artist Thomas Wilmer Dewing, summered there in a small farmhouse from the mid 1880s through 1905. Dewing loved to observe her iris blossoms opening in the sun's early light. She composed this picture from the perspective of an ardent horticulturalist, avoiding the complications of sky, path, or neighboring plants.


Edwin Dickinson, Window and Oar, 1955

Provincetown, Massachusetts, was home to Dickinson for most of the period 1912-1939, and he summered in nearby Wellfleet in later years. He first went there to study painting with Charles Hawthorne, and eventually married one of Hawthorne's students, Helen Foley. The poet Mark Strand recently wrote about Dickinson's art: "There is a softness about his paintings that seems the visual correlative of affection. [His] scrupulous attention to atmosphere, to the feel and presence of light, to what is most ephemeral in our daily lives, gives his paintings an elegiac cast."


Lois Dodd, The Painted Room, 1982

The Painted Room resonates with quirky colors and bold forms, and boasts a paradoxical composition. Architectural geometry controls the space, and the lifelike scale of the canvas creates confusion between the landscape mural inside the room and the real foliage outside the window. Dodd summers in Cushing, Maine and says: "I have been a landscape painter from the time I first visited Maine [in the 1950s]. I neither hunt, fish, nor swim, but will hike some distance carrying portable painting equipment to reach a good spot in which to paint."


Arthur Wesley Dow, Moonrise, 1916

Born in Ipswich, Massachusetts, and trained in France, Dow made a singular contribution to modernism in New England. Friendship with Ernest Fenollosa, a collector and curator of Japanese art in Boston, nurtured his keen interest in Asian aesthetics. Moonrise is a perfect example of Dow's ability to see pastoral New England in terms of the compositional strategies and color schemes of Japanese art. The artist's rejection of realist detail in favor of abstract serenity and spiritual calm also reflects his admiration for the works of two 19th-century artistic reformers -- James McNeill Whistler and Pierre Puvis de Chavannes.


Arthur Wesley Dow, Summer Lights, Ipswich, c. 1910 NO TEXT


Arthur Wesley Dow, View of the Marshes, Ipswich NO TEXT


Rackstraw Downes, Gene Littlefield's Shorn Sheep, 1973

A student of Joseph Albers, the renowned painter of geometric abstractions, Downes retains a penchant for the linear and the austere. His pictures are so fact-filled, however, they seem to rebut the abstract. Downes's approach is an unusual combination of traditional outdoor easel painting and disciplined analysis of how the eye reads space. His workmanlike touch often echoes certain quiet landscapes of the Dutch and French schools. In this painting of rural Maine the swerve of panoramic space is pure Downes, but colors and brushwork bring to mind the paintings of French Impressionist Camille Pissarro.


Janet Fish, Grape Arbor, 2001

The paintings that brought Fish critical acclaim were large, broadly brushed still lifes filled with shiny glass vases and dishes. The artist now summers in Middletown Spring, Vermont, and this bountiful image attests to her love of nature and gardening. She was one of the first women artists to receive an MFA from Yale University and became a key figure in the resurgence of realism, along with Philip Pearlstein and the "Superrealist" group that included Richard Estes and Audrey Flack.


Charles Lewis Fox, The Ferryman, 1926

A resident of Portland, Maine, Fox studied painting in Paris in the 1880s; one of the students he befriended there was Salem's Frank Benson. Fox subsequently established a cooperative art school in Portland. He was in his early seventies when he painted this portrait of a member of the Penobscot tribe who worked on the ferry that ran from Old Town to Indian Island, Maine. The artist occasionally stayed with the tribe, and he signed this canvas with his Penobscot name: "Gwerkus," meaning "fox."


Gregory Gillespie, Landscape with Islands and Sky, 1979

When Gillespie settled in central Massachusetts in 1970, he had been making eccentric realist paintings for a decade. The inspiration for this hallucinatory work was a picture on a plastic laminated placemat from a diner in coastal Newburyport. Gillespie made photographs of the placemat, glued them onto a board, and then painted his scene on top of them. In his notes about the work he writes: "Over the years I have done several landscapes in which I tried to suggest that everything is animate, overflowing with 'life' and changing continuously."


C. E. L. Green, Haycocks on the Marshes, c. 1890

Green sought to capture the atmosphere and customs that gave Boston's North Shore its particular charm and identity in the Victorian period. This painting conveys his love of the New England landscape, especially the character of the farmland and shorelines around his hometown of Lynn, Massachusetts. Green's broadly painted pastoral subject doubtless appealed to the Bostonians who collected French Barbizon painting and were developing an interest in its radical offshoot, Impressionism.


George Grosz, Woman in the Dunes, 1940

Grosz was a satirical realist who moved from Germany to New York in 1932 as the National Socialists rose to power. Beginning in 1936, he and his family spent several summers on Cape Cod, where he painted landscapes and nudes. The dreamy colors and fervent brush strokes fill Grosz's dunes and grassy hideaways with erotic energy.


George Grosz, Near Wellfleet, Cape Cod, 1940 NO TEXT


Lilian Westcott Hale, An Old Cherry Tree, 1920s

In its exquisite attention to light, atmosphere, and texture, this painting of the artist's back yard in Dedham, Massachusetts, exemplifies the tenets of the Boston School. Raised in Hartford, Connecticut, Hale studied at the School of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, where her teachers included Edmund Tarbell and Philip Hale.


Philip Leslie Hale, The Crimson Rambler, c. 1908

Hale sought a balance between the new and the traditional, for he loved the vibrant colors and active brushwork of Impressionism and he admired the orderly refinement of the 17th-century Dutch genre painters. In the late 1880s he was among the first Americans to paint in Giverny, France, in a manner inspired by the local artistic genius, Claude Monet. Hale was a well-liked drawing instructor at the School of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, from 1893 until his death. He married his former student, painter Lilian Westcott Hale.


Marsden Hartley, City Point, Vinalhaven, 1937-38

Hartley devoted many late works to his native state of Maine, savoring its majestic hardiness. Here he portrays a rugged island that is the home of boulders and rocky peaks. An outsider sensibility nourished his profound feeling for loneliness, as well as his worship of people, objects, and places that emanate strength, vitality, and integrity. In the artistic and literary circles of the day Hartley's homosexuality was an open secret, but a repressive society limited its open expression. A painting such as this echoes his inner turmoil and his longing for a place in the world.


Marsden Hartley, Summer, Sea, Window, Red Curtain, 1942

In her 1988 monograph on Hartley, Gail R. Scott wrote eloquently about this painting: "The dark cool interior . . . is a harmony of deep red, orange, and gold, while the blue-gray vase links interior and exterior. The view of the sea is limited, framed by the window and thus humanized and made rational, yet the tonal contrasts draw the viewer outward to the seductively sun-flicked ocean surface, then to the great white cloud. [He portrayed] the existential point of contact between the intimately familiar and the distant unknown."


Childe Hassam, Summer Evening, 1886

Hassam probably made this painting during a visit to Appledore Island, which lies seven miles off the coast of New Hampshire. His wife, Maud, may have been the model. Descended from early settlers of Massachusetts, Hassam was proud of his Yankee roots and Puritan forebears, and in Summer Evening he distilled the mythic appeal of a quiet sojourn in a New England cottage within sight and sound of the sea.


Childe Hassam, Maids in the Mist, 1899

Hassam, a leading figure in the American Impressionist movement, began to depict female nudes in the open air around 1898. He painted some on Long Island, New York, and others during his summer travels in New England. In this quiet, delicately tinted example Hassam whimsically contrasts the softness of bare flesh with a rough stone shoreline. The high rocky ledges are those he often painted on his visits to Appledore, the largest of the Isles of Shoals. The stylish frame bears the label of its maker, T. H. Jacobson of New York.


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