Maritime Art on Boston's North Shore

A Look At Maritime Art on Boston's North Shore

Collecting paintings has been something of a phenomenon along the North Shore of Boston for a couple centuries now. Starting in the mid 19th C. artists found the light and coastline a natural environment for putting color to canvas. Eventually numerous highly skilled painters were setting up easels on rocky out croppings and beaches from Nahant to Long Beach in Gloucester capturing the light and movement of large ships, small sailboats and fishing boats.


Maritime Art on Boston's North Shore
Fitz Henry Lane, Gloucester Harbor
John Wilmerding Collection, National Gallery of Art,
Washington, DC
Soon these painters were finding willing and eager buyers and  were able to established themselves with profitable careers while building reputations of international acclaim.  Fitz Henry (Hugh) Lane, Childe Hassam, John Twatchman, Marsden Hartley, Winslow Homer and Edward Hopper. Even the 20th C. artist Mark Rothko painted here early in his career. 

Today many works by these artists are in Washington DC as part of the permanent collection of The National Gallery of Art. They are national treasures in the truest sense.


Winslow homer painting cape ann
"Dads Home Coming" Winslow Homer
National Gallery of Art Washington DC
The light was good and it was their work that established a permanent market among the well to do and those with modest budgets to buy very fine paintings. This tradition lives on today with numerous galleries in Manchester-by-the-Sea, Rockport, Gloucester, Essex and nearly every other town North of Boston. The Rockport Art Association and The North Shore Art Association  do regular exhibitions each year, conduct wet paint auctions and in general do a very good job in promoting the business for their members.

Gloucester painting collection
Edward Hopper, Gloucester Harbor

While many of the artists who worked on Cape Ann and all along the North Shore went on to other places during their careers, the work they did here established those careers and honed their skills forever changing the American art world. At the same time the Impressionists working in France in the late 19th C. where Monet, Pissaro, Sisley and many others worked also changing the way art is viewed. The late 19th and early 20th C. was a catalyst for change for painters on both sides of the Atlantic. Today the popularity of Maritime art on Boston's North Shore is as strong as it has ever been.

Fishing Boats painting at Gloucester
Fishing Boats at Gloucester, by John Twatchman
Today, happily many of the paintings done by the amazing painters who have worked on the North Shore for over 170 years still remain in the area. The Cape Ann Museum up the street from my office houses some of the finest works ever done in the region, all donated for the most part by local families still in the area and given to the Museum from afar as bequests. Down the road in Salem, Massachusetts the Peabody Essex Museum also houses a formidable collection of North Shore paintings within the Russell W. Knight Department of Maritime Art and History. This collection has a special focus on Maritime History that's among the best in the world. The Peabody's collection spans over 200 years starting with the formation of the East India Marine Society in 1799 and was the cornerstone of the entire museum's formation.
In addition to the many institutions housing these great paintings, many also remain in private hands are freely made available for exhibitions, mostly (for obvious reasons) on an anonymous basis when a request is made.

If you plan on being on the North Shore in the near future or you find yourself in the area for a day with a little time on your hands, make an effort to visit these two institutions.

Be sure to visit the amazing FREE FREE online site "The Atheneum" and have a look at around. Their are over 90 Fitz Hugh Lane Paintings and works by  Edward Hopper, plus thousands more.  You can also search this amazing site to your hearts content. Free sites of this type are EXTREMELY rare..most charge a small fortune each month for access to just images.  Time to go sailing!


Feel free to email or call with any questions about your own paintings, drawings or Cape Ann School sculptures

Thank you for visiting ~ Peter Combs
Gloucester, MA 978-283-3524




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