Painting Summer in New England

April 22 - September 4, 2006



Essay labels for the exhibition:

Alphabetical by artist surname


Maurice Prendergast, Landscape with Figures No. 2, 1918

Although Prendergast left Boston for New York in 1914, he continued to summer along the Massachusetts coast. When composing this painting he used motifs he had sketched at Salem Willows, a popular oceanfront park at the mouth of Salem's harbor. Prendergast's simplified forms, rhythmic groupings, and mosaic-like notes of color invoke a dreamlike air: the painting conveys the feeling of sauntering among a happy crowd. The original frame, carved and decorated by the painter's brother Charles, augments the liveliness of the canvas.


Maurice Prendergast, New England Harbor, 1919-23

Prendergast made commercial and graphic art in Boston until, at the age of 32, he could afford to study in Paris. On his return, in 1894, he became the country's first Post-Impressionist by emulating Edouard Vuillard, Pierre Bonnard, and Art Nouveau poster styles. Prendergast's late works, including New England Harbor, relied on rough dashes of paint to create an uneven, seemingly unfinished effect. The decorative qualities of the colored marks and the abstract power of the entire surface had become his primary artistic concerns.


Scott Prior, Provincetown Landscape, 1976

In this early work, Prior depicts Mojo's, the perennially popular fast food establishment located in the heart of Provincetown. After graduating from the University of Massachusetts at Amherst in 1971, Prior settled in nearby Northampton. He is a realist painter whose interests include the Flemish Renaissance masters, Edward Hopper, and the 19th-century American landscapists whose meticulous, polished look is often called Luminist. This "landscape" features several surreal details, including a boulder on a bench, a face in the signage, and the weird surface of the sidewalk.


Scott Prior, Picnic Table by the Sea, 1996 NO TEXT


Scott Prior, Path to the Lake, 2003

Prior is strongly attuned to the drama of light, and he often makes solitude the core subject of his art. He can evoke the romantic fleeting light that inspires us to marvel at a sunset, but he also portrays melancholic scenarios. Path to the Lake combines a blissful landscape vista with an incongruous empty phone booth. While the twilight is palpably swift and subtle, the booth will shine steadily through the night.


Scott Prior, Path in Community Garden, 2004

This picture quietly recognizes a group of plant-loving individuals who savor the work and creativity of tending a plot in a community garden. The site is near Prior's home in Northampton, Massachusetts. The light is mellow and the plants collectively display an end-of-the-season lushness. The absence of gardeners and visitors intensifies the poignant mood.


Scott Prior, Apple Tree, 2004 NO TEXT


Paul Resika, The End of the Hurricane, 1979

Resika, a native New Yorker, has made numerous summer visits to Wellfleet, Massachusetts. This haunting picture captures the sultry sky and angry water created by a hurricane's passage over Cape Cod. Having studied with Hans Hofmann, Resika paints broadly and freely. He improvises his compositions, blurs his edges, and strives to put a sense of volume into his pictures, such as the "window" of deep blue space hovering in the sky of this voluptuous painting.


Norman Rockwell, Going and Coming, 1947

Rockwell lived in Arlington, Vermont, when he made this picture. It is one of the 321 Rockwell paintings that became Saturday Evening Post covers in the course of 47 years. The artist tackled the subject of a family's summer vacation with characteristic imagination and skill. By pairing "before and after" views he created a framework for multiple witty narratives. The pennant seen in the lower painting was based on one from Bennington, Vermont.


Barnet Rubenstein, Interior / Exterior, 1981-87

Still life was Rubenstein's primary interest; he produced paintings that were classical at heart, yet quirky and endearing. This delightful, geometry-ridden work contrasts still life elements in Rubenstein's home with the jumbled backyard view outside his window in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Rubenstein entered the School of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, in the late 1940s and taught there from 1967 to 2000.


John Singer Sargent, Miss Violet Sargent, 1890

Sargent's dashing portrait of his sister reveals his interest in Edouard Manet and Impressionism. He painted it on a visit to Nahant, Massachusetts, in 1890. Most contemporary American art critics resisted such work; for example, the prominent Bostonian William Howe Downes had recently written of the "extremists" who openly admired "those mad outlaws, the Impressionists." Isabella Stewart Gardner, Boston's maverick patron of the arts, purchased this picture around 1895; Sargent had painted a large provocative portrait of her in 1888.


John Sloan, Gloucester Trolley, 1917

Sloan came to fame around 1908 as a rebellious realist who painted urban life in New York. He once described himself as "a spectator of life," and gave this summary of his Manhattan pictures: "I saw people living in the streets and on the rooftops of the city, and I liked their fine, human, animal spirits." From 1914 to 1918 Sloan spent his summers in Gloucester, Massachusetts, producing lively, brightly colored landscapes, streetscapes, and harbor views. He wrote: "Gloucester, with its fishing smacks and fisher people, [is] one of the odd corners of America, built against the Puritan landscape, blue-eyed and rocky."


Niles Spencer, New England Houses, 1924

Spencer honed his mature personal response to the work of Picasso, Braque, and Cézanne in Paris in 1921-1922. He then purchased a summer home in Provincetown, Massachusetts, and focused on interiors, still lifes, and works such as this. Spencer responded to the underlying formal structure of the buildings by producing simplified outlines and slightly skewed planes. His subtle modeling underscores the quiet intimacy at the heart of this study of regional village architecture.


Edmund C. Tarbell, Mercie Cutting Flowers, 1912

This portrait shows Tarbell's daughter at the family's summer home in New Castle, New Hampshire. In 1908 the critic Charles H. Caffin compared the pleasures of Tarbell's paintings to those commonly attributed to flowers and gardens: first they offer a "purely abstract happiness in beauty," and then they produce a feeling that one's spirit has been "cleansed, refreshed, and fortified." At a time when urban poverty, child labor, and political corruption tarnished American life, Boston School artists such as Tarbell won national acclaim for graceful, dignified paintings that affirmed happier ideals.


Ross Sterling Turner, Rose Rambler, 1907

Turner is best known today for his floral paintings and landscapes. He was a friend of the American Impressionist Childe Hassam, and both of them painted poet Celia Thaxter's renowned flower gardens on Appledore Island. Turner studied in Paris and Munich in the late 1870s, and then traveled to Italy. After marrying Louise Blaney in 1885 he settled in Salem, Massachusetts. The couple owned a summer home in Wilton, New Hampshire.


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