Call of the Coast: Art Colonies of New England at the Portland Museum of Art

June 24 - October 12, 2009

 



 

Gallery object labels for the exhibition

Green Walls Section 2

 
Frank A. Bicknell
United States, 1866-1943
OGUNQUIT, MAINE, undated
oil on artist's board
Florence Griswold Museum. Gift of Mr. Charles Tyler, 1973.18
 
Bicknell referred to his fellow Old Lyme artists as "the family." Born in Augusta, Maine, he studied in Boston and Paris before establishing himself in New York City and becoming a member of the National Academy of Design. Although he visited and painted in the art colony at Annisquam, Bicknell is more closely associated with Old Lyme where his close relationships with Florence Griswold, Childe Hassam, and Willard Metcalf led him to return year after year.
 
 
Clarence Chatterton
United States, 1880-1973
ROAD TO OGUNQUIT, circa 1940
oil on masonite
Gift of Pendred E. Noyce, 1997.3.2
 
Clarence Chatterton was part of the inner circle of modernist painters in Maine. He studied at the New York School of Art under Robert Henri, with classmates such as George Bellows and Edward Hopper, whom he closely befriended. In 1915 Chatterton became Visiting Artist at Vassar College, in Poughkeepsie, New York (Henri and Bellows wrote letters of recommendation), and he arranged for many of his artist friends to exhibit there, cementing the relationship between the college and the city. With his academic year thus occupied, Chatterton sought out opportunities to travel and paint in the summertime. In 1918 and 1919, he accompanied Edward Hopper to Monhegan, marking the beginning of both artists' enduring creative relationship with the state of Maine.
 
 
Clarence Chatterton
United States, 1880-1973
BOATING WITH OLIVER, OGUNQUIT, 1929
oil on canvas
Museum purchase with support from Roger and Katherine Woodman, 1996.28
 
Beginning in 1920, Chatterton maintained a summer residence in Ogunquit, where he returned annually for nearly thirty years. There he produced vivid, frank paintings that convey the influence of his friend Edward Hopper, especially in the painter's treatment of the figures and light. Boating with Oliver -- the title referring to Oliver Tonks, head of the Art Department at Vassar-uses a sparse visual vocabulary to depict the group of figures in the fashions of the day. Boating with Oliver dates from a visit that "Tonksie" paid to "Chatty's" Ogunquit summer home in 1929, and the two women are Margaret and Julia Chatterton, the artist's wife and daughter.
 
 
Gertrude Fiske
United States, 1878-1961
FOGGY OGUNQUIT, circa 1910s
oil on artist's board
Bequest of Elizabeth B. Noyce, 1996.38.9
 
Like Woodbury, Fiske favored a high horizon line, atmospheric treatment, and a muted, almost tonalist palette for her landscapes and seascapes. In Foggy Ogunquit, swaths of lavender, blue, and gray capture the sea in one of its darker moods, emulating Woodbury in its sensitive color scheme and expressive brushwork. But Fiske also developed an interest in pattern that distinguished her from her contemporaries. Her paintings give a sense of the array of Ogunquit's iconic landscapes, from honky-tonk amusements to vestiges of a colonial village, from waves crashing on rocks to soft marshlands.
 
 
Gertrude Fiske
United States, 1878-1961
LOW TIDE, undated
etching on heavy wove paper
Gift of William Greenbaum, 1995.51.1
 
Fiske was one of Woodbury's most talented pupils. Although her engravings and paintings often resemble those of her teacher, Fiske also exhibited an independent streak that set her apart from Woodbury and her more conservative peers. Fiske studied at Boston's School of the Museum of Fine Arts, was elected a member of the National Academy of Design, and served as a founder of the Ogunquit Art Association in 1930.
 
 
Gertrude Fiske
United States, 1878-1961
SILVER MAPLE, OGUNQUIT, circa 1920s
oil on canvas
Bequest of Elizabeth B. Noyce, 1996.38.7
 
As a direct descendent of Governor William Bradford of Massachusetts, painter Gertrude Fiske had deep New England roots. After studying at Boston's School of the Museum of Fine Arts, she went on to become a founding member of the Concord Art Association and the Guild of Boston Artists. She also studied under Charles Woodbury at his summer art school in Ogunquit, Maine, and helped to found the Ogunquit Art Association. Although the bulk of her output ultimately was more closely associated with Boston than with Maine, focusing on figure studies and studio interiors, her work in Ogunquit was arguably more innovative, signaling a shift in American landscape painting at the time.
 
 
Bernard Karfiol
United States, born Hungary, 1886-1952
BATHERS, OGUNQUIT, undated
oil on canvas
Bequest of Eileen Barber, 1997.29.1
 
After studying at New York's National Academy of Design, Bernard Karfiol spent several years in Europe mingling with modernist painters and developing his mature vision. His work was included in two groundbreaking exhibitions: the 1904 Salon d'Automne in Paris and the Armory Show in New York in 1913. Intrigued by what he saw at the Armory Show, art impresario Hamilton Easter Field gave Karfiol his first solo exhibition, at the Ardsley Studios in Brooklyn, and invited Karfiol to his newly founded school in Ogunquit. Karfiol summered there for many years as both a student and a teacher. Field said that his work had "a tenderness and an intensity of feeling so rare in American art."
 
 
Bernard Karfiol
United States, born Hungary, 1886-1952
VIRGINIE AT PERKINS COVE, circa 1920
oil on canvas
Museum purchase with support from Roger and Katherine Woodman, 1983.171
 
Embracing a blend of modernism and classicism that was shared by many other artists of the day -- Robert Laurent and Yasuo Kuniyoshi were among those in Ogunquit who produced work in this vein -- Karfiol was interested in the timeless beauty of the human form. Though many of his works depict the classical theme of bathers in a landscape, others demonstrate a taste for figures painted in the studio. Yet the ocean is still present in this view of the artist's daughter sitting by a window in what may have been one of Ogunquit's many fishing-shacks-turned-artists'-studios. The inside/outside motif had a precedent in both nineteenth-century American portraiture and the work of avant-garde modernists such as Henri Matisse.
 
 
Walt Kuhn
United States, 1877-1949
LOBSTER COVE, OGUNQUIT, 1912
oil on canvas
Gift of Ellen Williams, 2000.43
 
The years 1911 to 1913 brought change to Kuhn's life and career in many ways: in 1911 Kuhn celebrated the birth of his daughter, first visited Ogunquit, met Hamilton Easter Field, and began to work on organizing the Armory Show, a New York exhibition of international art in 1913 that would change the course of art in this country. The organizers of this exhibition railed against the conservatism and exclusivity of the annual exhibition hosted by the National Academy of Design; they were also dissatisfied with the direction of the anti-academy movement -- led by Robert Henri -- which favored a social-realist approach to painting. By contrast, Kuhn enjoyed the relative artistic freedom of Ogunquit, facilitated by its distance from New York and also by its avant-garde community of artists. Although nothing is particularly revolutionary about the subject of this painting of Ogunquit's rocky shoreline, the broken brushwork and spectral palette-note the marks of bright red in the foreground rocks-convey his willingness to experiment with modernist techniques.
 
 
Yasuo Kuniyoshi
United States, born Japan, 1889-1953
AFTER THE BATH, 1923
oil on canvas
Hamilton Easter Field Art Foundation Collection, gift of Barn Gallery Associates, Inc., Ogunquit, Maine, 1979.13.26
 
Born in Okayama, Japan, Yasuo Kuniyoshi had spent several years working as a manual laborer in the American West before moving to New York to study painting, in 1910. He ultimately settled at the Art Students League, where he became associated with many artists in the circle of Hamilton Easter Field. Field, who saw Kuniyoshi's work in the 1917 Society of Independent Artists exhibition in New York, would eventually become one of the young artist's greatest patrons, furnishing him and his first wife, painter Katherine Schmidt, with an apartment and studio in Brooklyn in the winter and at Ogunquit in the summertime. Kuniyoshi first visited Ogunquit in 1918 and summered there annually through the mid-1920s, producing an engaging body of work that reflects the wide array of influence embraced in the art colony.
 
 
Robert Laurent
United States, born France, 1890-1970
RECLINING FIGURE, circa 1935
walnut
Hamilton Easter Field Art Foundation Collection, gift of Barn Gallery Associates, Inc., Ogunquit, Maine, 1979.13.46
 
Hamilton Easter Field discovered the young Robert Laurent during his 1901 visit to Concarneau, a coastal village in Brittany frequented by American painters. Recognizing the boy's prodigious talent, Field persuaded the Laurents to allow him to guide Robert's artistic education. Laurent became Field's protégé, ultimately traveling with him to the United States and remaining a close friend and colleague. After Field's untimely death in 1922, Laurent became the leading light of the Ogunquit art colony.
 
 
Leo Meissner
United States, 1895-1977
FOOTBRIDGE: PERKINS COVE, undated
wood engraving on wove paper
Museum purchase, 1985.27
 
Meissner, originally from Detroit, possessed a keen eye for New England nature and culture. The footbridge at Ogunquit, a landmark of life in the small fishing village-turned-art-colony, attracted the attention of countless artists. Few, however, managed to make the structure look rickety and modern at the same time. The bridge itself, since replaced with a newer span, not only crossed Perkins Cove literally, but symbolically connected Woodbury's traditional artists to Field's progressive spirits.
 
 
Gaston Longchamps
United States, 1894-1986
CHARLIE ADAMS AND BISH YOUNG, 1933
oil on canvas
Hamilton Easter Field Art Foundation Collection, gift of Barn Gallery Associates, Inc., Ogunquit, Maine, 1979.13.31
 
Among the distinguishing features of the Ogunquit art colony were the fishing shacks that lined Perkins Cove, many of which were converted into artists' studios. This image from a shack's interior conveys that dual role and illustrates the kind of interaction that characterized the relationship between the artists and the "locals." It is no surprise that Longchamps was drawn more to the people than to the landscapes of Ogunquit -- his impressive career as a set designer for ballets and operas at the Metropolitan Opera House in New York was founded upon a passion for the human form. The men pictured are Charlie Adams and Bish Young, Ogunquit fishermen who posed for the students at the art school. Young worked for beer-a six-pack an hour -- and was renowned for his practical jokes.
 
 
Abraham Walkowitz
United States, born Russia, 1878-1965
OLD HOME, OGUNQUIT, MAINE, 1926
oil on canvas
Bequest of Elizabeth B. Noyce, 1996.38.51
 
Abraham Walkowitz was part of a community of artists in New York who, in the years between the world wars, attempted to incorporate the latest trends in European art into their own work. This circle included Marsden Hartley, John Marin, and Marguerite and William Zorach, among others, all of whom had or would develop strong connections to the state of Maine. It was perhaps through them -- with whom he had also spent time in Provincetown, Massachusetts -- that he came to visit Ogunquit in the summer of 1926, when this work was painted. In its parklike, classicized setting and its simplified, iconic use of the human form, Old Home, Ogunquit, draws its influence from European post-impressionists like Henri Matisse and Paul Cézanne, artists whose work was also admired and emulated by Americans working in Ogunquit around this time, notably Yasuo Kuniyoshi and Bernard Karfiol.
 
 
Charles Herbert Woodbury
United States, 1864-1940
OGUNQUIT BATH HOUSE WITH LADY AND DOG, circa 1912
oil on board
Bequest of Elizabeth B. Noyce, 1996.38.56
 
In 1898 Charles Woodbury opened the doors of the Ogunquit Summer School of Drawing and Painting. Woodbury himself was largely self-taught as a painter; although he took some watercolor classes under impressionist Ross Sterling Turner, his formal academic training was in mechanical engineering, in which he earned a degree from MIT in 1886. Nevertheless, his talent was undeniable, and after selling out his first gallery show, he established a successful Boston studio and classroom. His future wife, Marcia Oakes of South Berwick, Maine, was one of his students there, and it was through her that he first came to visit Ogunquit, which was then little more than a cluster of fishing shacks along Perkins Cove. Woodbury saw in the unspoiled seaside setting and the quiet village atmosphere the perfect environment for focused study and work.
 
 
Charles Herbert Woodbury
United States, 1864-1940
PERKINS COVE, MAINE, circa 1900
oil on board
Bequest of Elizabeth B. Noyce, 1996.38.57
 
Well known as a teacher, Woodbury's own paintings embrace a lyrical style influenced by French impressionism but distinctly American in its force and vitality. In Ogunquit he encouraged his students to use that style to describe not only the appearance of the landscape, but also their individual response to its unique beauty. Woodbury advised them to "paint in verbs, not nouns," reflecting the fact that the Ogunquit landscape was one of motion and activity-from the pounding waves and changing cloudscapes to the human activity of the beaches and wharves. Woodbury also counseled his students on the importance of observation as the underpinning for their art; in fact, in 1923 the summer school was somewhat loftily renamed The Art of Seeing -- Woodbury Course in Observation. The school remained in almost continuous operation until Woodbury's death in 1940.
 
 
Charles Herbert Woodbury
United States, 1864-1940
THE RISING TIDE, undated
etching on wove paper
Museum purchase, 1970.4
 
Woodbury, originally trained as an engineer, had an eye for precise detail. This comes to the surface in his etchings where the contours of each wave are depicted as if on a topographical map. He produced several hundred etchings in the course of his career and played a significant role in the rediscovery of this medium by 20th-century American artists.

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