Monday, March 30, 2009

Star island 9x12

I made a 9x12 seascape this week. it is from a photo, I don't usually do things from photos, however the photo had no surf in it, having been taken on a calm day. I invented the surf and I shoved the rocks around a lot. I always invent surf. I have painted many seascapes and it just doesn't photograph so that it looks right to me . A lot of surf painting presents similar challenges to snow painting. However it flops about as you paint it.

I owed a favor to the folks that run Star Island . I made this painting for them. The island bears a large19th century hotel owned by the Unitarian church ( no I am not ) and located about 10 miles off of Portsmouth, New Hampshire. They invited me to paint out there with a group of other artists and let us stay and work for a couple of days. They fed us too.

I am particularly interested in this place as it is part of the Isles of Shoals archipelago. The next island a half mile over is Appledore where Childe Hassam painted so many of the early paintings that made him famous. He stayed there at an inn run by Celia Thaxter who was a well known poet.
It was she who convinced him to drop his first name, Fredrick for his far more romantic sounding middle name, Childe. For an artist, having a weird name never hurts.
Here is a Childe Hassam painted out on Appledore.


Besides being the inspiration for this joyous painting, Appledore was also the location of one of the darker episodes in the history of New England painting. It involved the most important of the Boston painters before the Tarbell and Benson era, portrait painter William Morris Hunt. Hunt was the brother of Richard Morris Hunt, famous 19th century architect who designed the facade of the Metropolitan Museum of Art and Biltmore the largest mansion in the nation, for the Vanderbilts.
William Morris Hunt had studied in Europe under Coture and Millet. Hunt was an influence on a whole generation of New England painters, bringing the ideas of the Barbizon painters back from his 12 years of study in France. Here's the cheerful looking visage of Mr. Hunt below.

In 1879 Hunt visited Appledore to recover from a bout with depression. His drowned body was found in a pond on the island by Celia Thaxter herself. Although his death was probably a suicide, that has been disputed as he walked with a cane and some argued in his day that he simply fell in.

Do you think women liked that look back then? I think that long beard and bald pate make him look like his head is on upside down.


Knitting Out Loud said...

Hey, great blog, Stape! Love this entry, was not aware of this mysterious death.

Stapleton Kearns said...

Thanx, Knitting,

If you knit or know anyone who does ,this link will take you to a great resource, I don't know how to knit. But I can do petit point and bargello............Stape

Mike Thompson said...

Stape, Hassam's ''Little Pond at Appledore'' is one of my favorite paintings at the Chicago Art Institure. I always track it down when I go. It is one of those paintings that make me feel glad to be alive.

Stapleton Kearns said...


Great art museum. I didn't remember they had that. I remember pretty much every painting I see, but I forget where I saw them. ....Stape