Artists of This Vicinity
by Mrs. Elwyn G. Campbell
Presented at the Roundabout Club in 1921; and at the Fairhaven Colonial Club in 1922
Part Two, a continuation of Part One
R. Swain Gifford is given a place among America’s greatest artists. He was born on Naushon, his father being boatman to William Swain, then the island’s owner and founder of the Swain School, for whose son he was named. When a young boy he came to Fairhaven and spent his spare moments sketching on bits of wrapping paper with stubby pencils, whatever took his fancy. Van Beest, catching sight of the boy drawing a bit of the waterfront near the studio, watched him, then gave him better materials with which to work and soon perceiving the talent in Gifford, trained him. Later Dr. Ricketson took an interest in him, when he worked in Van Beest’s and Bradford’s studio in New Bedford and sold enough of his paintings to give him a start elsewhere. He went to Boston to study for two years, then established himself in New York. He made trips down to the Maine coast to Grand Manan and Mt. Desert in the company of other artists; to California for studies which later appeared in Picturesque America and also made extended trips abroad to Europe and northern Africa with such men as Louis C. Tiffany, Edwin Abbey and Frank Millet. His last years were spent in New York and Nonquitt. R. Swain Gifford introduced to art the windbent trees and changeful marshes of New England. He was the first to realize their picturesque beauty. His work is strong, accurate and full of the neutral tones with which we are familiar or with the rich color of foreign settings. His etchings have also won the highest praise.
In speaking of Walton Ricketson born in New Bedford of fine old Dartmouth stock, his personality is so delightful, his talent so evident, his reminiscences of such great interest, that a visit to him is like beholding a desired tapestry wherein it is hard to tell what charms the most, the design, the coloring or the skillful weaving. Moving about Ricketson’s studio, here is a bust of Thoreau, another of Emerson, another of George William Curtis, another of Robert Ingraham, another of Bronson Alcott -medallions of Charles Gifford, of Louisa Alcott, of Mrs. Edmund Grinnell –his own work– all friends and neighbors of this sculptor who so skillfully moulded clay to express the nobility, intelligence and beauty of their features. Ricketson’s exquisite Dawn is here too (the Dawn that built at least two of his studios) – and the equally beautiful Twilight, and on walls and here and there, everywhere – are pictures by his artist friends of whom he talks so delightfully. Of himself he says little – he does not have to; his work speaks for itself.
L.D. Eldred, born in Fairhaven over 70 years ago was one of the interesting artists in this vicinity. In late years we have known him chiefly through his personal recollections of renowned artists and by his etchings — the largest plates now executed in New England – the most popular at present being his series depicting old whalers and harbor scenes and the frigate Constitution. The many beautiful pictures in oils and water colors which he did before he began to etch — now mostly in private collections — are not forgotten however. Views along the coast – landscapes — impressions of Spain, Italy, the Mediterranean and northern Africa, all show his ability as an artist, and his love of color and harmony. His study under William Bradford, in the Academy, at Julian’s and elsewhere, and his native skill and intelligence all combined to make his work rank high among that of New England artists. His wide acquaintance with art folk, his frank opinions, his evident individuality, his courtesy, his modesty made him a most interesting man to be interviewed and I feel myself fortunate to have had the personal glimpse of him before death took him only this last year.
Across from the Pine Lawn Sanatorium in Acushnet, a grove of spruces almost hides the late home of Clement Swift — one of the best equipped artists of this locality. With wealth and culture, an inheritance, he received a splendid training abroad under the French masters, among them Harpignies, lived in Brittany for some time with celebrated artists and his paintings were exhibited yearly in the French Salon. Some of his work was sold abroad – but little here – his father hoarding in one room in the Acushnet home, I have been told, whatever the artist sent across the water. Whatever canvases I have seen of his have been large. The two in the lecture room of the New Bedford Library are typical. He was fond of animals and portrayed them well. His sister, Mrs. Thomas Knowles, has some of his work.
Charles H. Gifford, a cousin of R. Swain Gifford, was born in Fairhaven in 1839. As a little girl I remember his tall, lean figure, white flowing beard and kindly face and his cordial reception of my father and me when, on Sunday afternoons we occasionally found our way to his home in Oxford and climbed the white tower to his studio that overlooked the bay. I remember being chiefly interested in the reproductions of old-time furniture that he enjoyed making – but as I grew older I began to appreciate his pictures. With little instruction, but real talent, he did fine work in both oils and water colors. He was a shoemaker by his father’s wish, a soldier in the Civil War form a sense of duty, but from the age of 26 when he sold his first picture he devoted his life to art. His pictures are mostly views of New Bedford and Fairhaven from the water and of the picturesque islands that we see from the bridge and marine views made off this coast and that of Maine and about the British Isles.
Harry Chase, born in 1853 in Woodstock, Vt., was one of the greatest marine artists of his time and many summers he spent running in and out of the harbors about here, on his yacht “Bonnie” sketching and painting. Nonquitt and New Bedford knew him well and several of his paintings are owned here. “The Homeward Bound Whale” isa well known picture of his and “Making Port”, now in possession of Ned Stanley, is famous. Chase had studied in Germany, Holland and France under celebrated artists but came here from St. Louis. Just how far his skill would have carried him we cannot tell, for he became insane and died when only forty.
William Ferdinand Macy was well known during his day as a colorist. Paintings of still life that I have seen as well as his landscapes, show his ability along this line. He, however, was not a prolific painter.
William Starbuck Macy, on the other hand, did much as well as big work. His landscapes are considered distinctive. He was born in New Bedford in 1853 and studied in New York and Munich four years. He sketched in Minnesota, Dakota, Bermuda and elsewhere. He had a studio in New York and a New Bedford workshop which is still called “The Studio” in the yard of Edward H. Hicks on Cottage Street just south of Grove. (Louis Richardson has one of Macy’s celebrated winter scenes from the Edward Haskell Estate.)
I can remember Arthur Cumming, tall, lean, interesting, as he used to come to the Friends’ Academy to give us instruction in drawing. He always wore tweeds and was very English. Previously he had come from Exeter, England to teach drawing in the public schools of New Bedford and was also an instructor in the Swain School. His training as an architect is evident in the exquisite drafting of his subjects – two that Walton Ricketson has show this especially well – water colors of Exeter and the Thames waterfront. Cumming’s landscapes were not very good at first, but after studying with Charles H. Davis for a season his work was considered excellent. He resided in Fairhaven, but a few years before he died he left there for Chicago.
Frank D. Millet was born in Mattapoisett and was a boyhood friend of Henry H. Rogers with whom he spent many pleasant hours aboard the Kanawha later in life. Millet was a subject painter. His pictures were always restful, harmonious, balanced – and when you see them you know at once the artist had a healthy man’s pleasure in color and fluency of line. The pictures are mainly of Puritan and early Victorian scenes, portraying wholesome domestic life. “The Black Sheep” in the lecture room of the New Bedford Library is a fine illustration of his brush work. He also did portraits – Mark Twain among them. As a mural decorator Millet had merited fame. He looked out for the Chicago World’s Fair painting and his mural work in the Pittsburgh bank, Minnesota state capitol, Cleveland Trust Company and Baltimore custom house shows his talent. He was returning from abroad with plans for the wall decorations of the New Bedford Library when his ship, the Titanic, sunk and his life was lost.
Dwight W. Tryon was born in Hartford, Conn., in 1849. As a young man he was a salesman in a book store, reading art books in every spare moment. He was musical and a fine penman. Then he took up the brush and at 24 retired from business life to paint, taking pupils fill he had earned enough to go to Europe in 1874. Here he studied for seven years under Daubigny, Harpignies and others, taking stiff courses of instruction for discipline and painting outdoors summers. His pictures were hung in the Salon. Since 1881 he has wintered in New York where he has a studio and spent the rest of the year mostly at South Dartmouth. Here he makes sketches and gets the inspiration for most of his pictures. His pictures are mainly New England landscapes and are marked by truth of form, vigor of drawing and complex color values. He is a master of dawn and twilight setting. His subjects are considered not only scientifically or intellectually but poetically and are full of spiritual expression. Two photographic copies are in the New Bedford Library and original pictures are in the big galleries everywhere. The Freer collection in the National Gallery in Washington includes dozens of his canvases. His work has always been readily sold. A local friend of the Tryons said that she saw the artist make two sketches about 6″ x 8″ one day for which he was promptly given $800 apiece and another, a little larger, sold for $1500 before it left the easel.
It was while going through Mrs. Jack Gardner’s home one day with my mother that I realized Dodge MacKnight’s connection with New Bedford. I was so surprised as I stood surveying an impressionistic bit of work of his to hear my mother say: “There, I remember the first time I ever saw Dodge MacKnight’s pictures. He had a studio in the Folsom building and he wanted your father and me to come down and see something he had just painted. I think it was called ‘Hell’.” Dodge MacKnight’s mother was a New Bedford Davenport and after her death he came here from Providence to visit his uncle. He got the commission to do the drop curtains and scenery of the New Bedford Theatre, then joining a local group of art lovers he painted two water colors which were exhibited and seen by Charles Taber of Taber Art Company, who ordered 100 of them, then gave MacKnight employment in his factory for making art goods. Here MacKnight would make a landscape, girls copied it and he put on the finishing touches. He went from New Bedford to Paris to study, through the help of his room-mate, the organist, Allen Swan, who advanced $600 a year for four years. He studied in Paris, then went to Algeria where he began to develop a style which was fully decided upon later when he traveled in France and Belgium. He was a pioneer among impressionists. He came back to America in 1898 after traveling and painting in London, Spain and the Alps. He was with Charles Davis in Connecticut, then settled at Sandwich. Yearly exhibitions since show his impressions of Jamaica, Newfoundland, the White Mountains, Mexico, Utah, Colorado, Maine, California and elsewhere, especially Cape Cod. He has exhibited in New Bedford. In 1916 his watercolors were bringing $450 apiece.
Franklyn P. Brownell grew up in New Bedford, studied in Paris under Bourgereau and Monet and while there became intimate with a Canadian whose father secured him a position as headmaster of the Art School of Ottawa. This position he held for years, giving it up to take private pupils and devote more time to painting. He does a great many portraits of members of parliament and, since the first of the Great War, of soldiers. Landscapes, too, grow beneath his brush, some being of semi-tropical scenes, done while he spent some time about the Caribbean. His exhibitions are rather notable affairs. When I asked why his work was not exhibited here, it was explained to me that the duties were extremely high on works of art coming over the Canadian line and it is hard to get them shipped satisfactory and as his pictures are in demand where they are, he has not felt the need of looking for a market elsewhere. Still we would enjoy seeing the work of this son of our land. (Dr. Shockley has some of his pictures.)
Miss Elizabeth Delano of Fairhaven likes best to do portraits and as I recall my visit to her, certain ones of her mother, Miss Melora Handy, of young “Bill” Tallman, of Dr. White’s father, John I. Bryant and Roosevelt stand out in my memory. This winter she has completed a picture of Mrs. Coggeshall, which may, perhaps, find its place in the Coggeshall House. I myself, however, enjoyed most her flower studies such as those of peonies, cosmos, mountain laurel, wild white magnolia – all of which she picked in her own garden or gathered in the woods and fields wherever she happened to be. A cluster of peaches from a tree she raised herself, a glimpse of Pease’s buttercup meadow with its masses of blue flag, apple trees in bloom on the Laura Keene farm, frames which she colored herself, bits of wood cawing, the charming frieze in the living room and a study for the frieze she made for the late Warren Delano’s house in New York state, of chrysanthemums from the Rogers greenhouses are among the delightful things one likes to recall after having seen them in her home. Miss Delano studied at the Academy and League in New York and at one time had a studio in Boston. The winter before last she spent in Orlando where she exhibited.
Louis Richardson to me is one of the artists of whom we have most right to be proud. Ricketson ranks him with William Starbuck Macy as the greatest landscape painters born in New Bedford. Richardson is an inspector of plumbing and much of his art work is done evenings from sketches mapped out while at Smiths Neck on his holidays. He is a painter of marshes, of sea water and sand dunes of brooks running through tidewater meadows, and of cloud flecked skies. His earlier work – soft, warm – reminds one of Inness. His present work, sunshine and lighted clouds and opalescent day dreams, has a more modern note – some of them done with oil sticks instead of with brush and tube illustrate this particularly. But all are Richardson’s own, showing Richardson’s individuality and inspired genius and make one marvel that the man who created them is self-trained with art only as an avocation. “At the Edge of the Woods” in his earlier style is in the New Bedford Library.
Eben F. Comins, born near Boston, related to New Bedford people, studied in Boston and Paris, organized the School of Design in Minneapolis, then came to the Swain School after it had beer’ closed for a year, reorganizing it as a school of design purely. He had a studio in Boston at this time, studied at Harvard and taught a new theory of color, then went abroad and copied the old masters.
He left New Bedford, taught at Wellesley and in Boston and in Gloucester where he had a studio also; then went to Los Angeles where he painted “The Two Sisters” arid other much praised pictures. He now does not teach but lectures and paints portraits.
Henry Stevens Eddy, whose father was born here, last year gave an exhibition of his painting in the New Bedford Library. He is a grandson of the well-known artist, Henry C. Stevens, has studied under Twachtman; Volk and George Elmer Brown and now has a studio in New York. He has painted some in this neighborhood which he considers even more picturesque than Provincetown where he spends his summers.
Arnold C. Slade was in my class in grammar school arid I knew he attracted my attention for two reasons. He was good looking arid he was related to the Slade spice folks. He studied art in New Bedford and elsewhere, some of his work showing the influence of his French master, Laurens. He has been a prolific painter and has done splendid work in making Biblical pictures. His last exhibiting here in Philadelphia, Boston and other places of which I know was just before the Great War when he sold several vases to big collectors. His subjects are varied but his pictures are all clear and vibrant in tone. “The Waifs” is a conspicuous picture in the New Bedford Library lecture room. Many scenes are set in Jerusalem, Tangiers, Constantinople, Normandy, Brittany, Venice, Egypt arid Rome and all show his ability. At the opening of the war he was in France and stayed there helping out wherever he could. I think he has returned to this country since but lately has been in Tunis and has accepted a two-year commission from the French government to do some kind of special work. A series of Tunisian pictures by him were published this winter in Scribner’s.
Clifford W. Ashley, a New Bedford boy, early felt the inspiration of the wharves. He studied in Boston and under Howard Pyle. Then, deciding to make a whaling voyage he secured a commission from Harper’s to write and illustrate a story, “The Blubber Hunters.” This attracted much attention. He has illustrated for other big magazines and painted other things besides whalers and wharves, and cooper shops, and sailmakers -for instance, bits of color in Jamaica and quaint spots in Harper’s Ferry -but New Bedford and Fairhaven will always feel an especial interest in this artist whose exceptional talent has added to their fame because of his pictures of the most romantic phase of their history. His studio is in Fairhaven at the foot of Washington Street and he has frequent exhibitions of his work in the big galleries. There are pictures by him in the New Bedford Library. Many of his paintings are of the Charles W. Morgan, the last of the whalers.
Another lover of the sea and ships is Percy Cowen (signed Perc E. Cowen.) Born in Fairhaven and attending its public schools he early showed signs of talent. He went to the Swain School, then to Boston and New York. He also spent a while in Europe with Bancroft Winsor. He comes of whaler ancestry and loves the sea, especially during the fishing season at Martha’s Vineyard. He illustrates for Harper’s, Collier’s the Metropolitan, Cosmopolitan and other magazines and does advertisement pictures too, I believe. He numbers among his friends such artists as Harrison Fisher, Montgomery Flagg, Clare Briggs and McCutcheon. One of his paintings is in the New Bedford Library.
The ships painted by Ashley and Cowen are quite different from the set, studied views of whalers that were painted in other days. These older pictures were done as many of their owners liked them – broadside with all sails set, the owner’s flag and the name very plain, every rope in place, every wave rippling with Marcellian regularity. These ship paintings are seen everywhere hereabouts. They were mostly done abroad cheaply in English and Italian seaports.
It would take too much time to continue with as complete resumes of the work of other people of this vicinity who have something to do with art. I will only append an alphabetical list of such people as I know or of whom I have been told, giving a few notes. In this list are the names of scores of amateurs and professionals whose work shows promise, who have really done good things at times, who are interesting in one way or another, who might have achieved real success, if they had made art a vocation or if ill health had not barred the way to great attainments, and with them I give the names of others who may be considered by many as being as worthy of more lengthy summaries of there work as some of whom I have already spoken. I haven’t been able to verify the data given in every case.
Thomas B. Aiken has painted some – but business takes his time. What there is of his work is said to be good.
Charles Alden, the sculptor of the Sylvia Ann Howland bust in the library did a whaleman group. He had a studio at the foot of William Street and organized the Paint and Clay Club. He is now in Boston.
William Baylies studied in Paris. He showed promise as a young man.
Clarence Braley does decorating of all kinds of artistic work. He also does delightful water color.
J. Franklyn Briggs did good still life work before he made business his profession.
H.P. Bryant in a pleasant studio behind his home does family portraits and landscapes. He “dabbles” as he calls it for pleasure when not occupied in his business affairs.
Franklin Burnham painted in Mattapoisett and exhibited.
Beatrice Burt studied in Paris. She does exquisite miniatures.
Henry Burt, her father, does water fowl in half relief. He possesses some fine paintings.
John A. Chase studied under Clement Swift. Art is a side line with him. He has exhibited.
Theodosia Chase does black and white studies – also photographs.
Albert Cook Church is extremely clever and versatile. Painter, writer, lecturer, an authority on various naval subjects and a specialist in camera studies, having a wonderful collection of deep sea photographs.
John H. Clifford, a lawyer, who does good painting, has a fine war poster collection.
Mrs. Colyar does pastels and water colors to sell.
Henry H. Crapo, “a good artist lost to the world when the street railway claimed him.” It has been said of him by a big artist “He draws, paints and etches delightfully.”
G. Cree painted some.
R. N. Crowell also has painted. One of his pictures is “Shore Scene.”
Mabel Davis, member of the Swain School faculty, has one flower studies china painting and stencil work particularly well.
J. O. Eaton painted “The Greek Water Carrier.”
Gabriel T. Eddy painted “Rock Study.”
William E. Ellis, formerly clerk in Wentworth’s clothing store, painted some. Ill health sent him to Sassaquin. Then he left the city.
Adolph Frederick, Albert Steffin and Floyd Cary are decorators at the Pairpoint – all with ability.
P.J. Fournier painted some.
C.G. Griffin, in Browne’s Studio, painted “The Head of the River” that is in the New Bedford Library, among other things.
Arthur G. Grinnell, who has a studio on Hawthorne Street, does interesting wood carving. His sister, Mrs. Morgan Rotch, painted and also her sister-in-law, Miss Mary Rotch, had a studio on the Rotch place near Union Street.
E.A. Haskins painted some. He is now in Providence.
Charles Hazeltine kept an art and music store in New Bedford. He had a fine taste in engravings and invented a colored plaster. An exhibition of “Narcissus” caused his leaving here. He went to Providence and Pawtucket and developed his plaster work, the secret of which died with him.
Frederic H. Hitch, who fought in the Civil War, kept a private school and tutored in Fairhaven. He did charming pastels.
E. Hervey did some work. He exhibited at the Rotch House exhibition in December, 1921.
Edward Hindle – the son of a carriage painter – was a young man of great promise who died. Mr. Bryant has a painting of his.
Dr. Irish – as some one said – “before he drew teeth he drew pictures” many of animals. He continues his work in oils now, doing many portraits.
Benoni Irwin was a portrait painter in Nonquitt colony who did noteworthy work. He painted Joseph Grinnell, Gilbert Allen, Walter Ricketson’s sister, Miss Elsie Howland’s father and others.
William Wall, of course, did most of the older portraits we see.
Chester Harding was a still earlier portrait painter of people here and Charles Martin did beautiful crayon portraits of Mr. and Mrs. Daniel Ricketson, Captain Joseph Delano and others. Some portraits are by a Hathaway, possibly the son of William Hathaway, Jr., who was a pupil of Bierstadt. Then there are portraits by more famous artists occasionally seen here. William Mosher of Fairhaven, who gave first instruction to Eldred, also did some portrait work. Dunskee was a skilled ambrotype artist about 1861 – here – who did Thoreau while he visited in New Bedford.
A. F. Kiemenger, by profession a lithographer, an instructor at the Swain School at one time, married Frances Gilford, daughter of R. Swain Gifford. He paints extremely well. His studio is in New York. He summers in Nonquitt.
Joe Landers, bookkeeper in Driscol, Church & Hall’s, did good crayon work. He gave up business and then went back to it.
Mrs. Larson did some water color work.
Arthur L. Long has exhibited.
H.W. Mason, our former New Bedford Chief of Police, has artistic ability.
Thomas Martin has exhibited.
William McKenzie has exhibited.
Grace Milliken has given up work now on account of her eyes. She had a studio in Boston and did portraits and impressionistic landscapes.
T. B. Norris, 738 Pleasant Street, New Bedford, paints.
F.C. Parlow, a Marion man I believe, then a fireman in New Bedford, has exhibited.
Margaret S. Pierce, sister of Mrs. Benjamin H. Anthony, has a studio in Epston. Portraits done by her are owned by New Bedford residents. Her “Dancing Lesson” is a charming work in oils in the lecture room of the New Bedford Library. Miss Pierce studied in Boston, Paris and Holland. Her pictures are said to have fine feeling and show high technique. She has exhibited at the Swain School.
Thomas R. Plummer and his brother did unique and beautiful wood carving of fish and marine life, colored to suit subject. “Blue Fish” is some of his work in the New Bedford Library at the head of the north stairway.
Dr. W.G. Potter practiced but painted as a pastime. He did good work, chiefly marines.
John Ribchester has exhibited.
Mrs. Arthur Ricketson, wife of Dr. Ricketson, patron of art, has talent.
Miss Louise Ricketson, her daughter, who has recently exhibited in the public library, also has marked ability as a copyist in original work and especially does she show skill in the making of miniatures.
Clifford Riedell, a Marion boy, who lived in Fairhaven while he was an instructor in the Swain School, left and became art instructor at Smith College. He paints some.
Edmund Rodman’s paintings are not very strong, perhaps, but loved by all who remember this kindly old man. I recall his coming to visit school and spending a whole session in one room drawing animal pictures on a small pad while he sat listening to recitations and passing out two or three of such pictures to the favored pupils when he said goodbye.
E.N. Russell has exhibited.
Lieutenant Simms, soldier, did a fresco in his own home and studied in the Worth Congregational Sunday school room, New Bedford.
Dr. Edward Sisson practiced and did water colors. One good one of a sunset on Lake Pasadena always pleased me greatly.
Nat C. Smith, architect, paints well. I have seen good Brittany studies by him. One is in the New Bedford Library.
Edward Stetson has ability.
Mrs. Anna Stone, widow of Francis Stone, has painted.
G. A. Swift has exhibited.
Isaac Walton Taber, illustrator in black and white, principally for the Century, some times for St. Nicholas, was a New Bedford man.
W.H. Tripp in the First National Bank paints.
Reginald Tribe, cartoonist of ability, lives in Fairhaven.
G. F. Wing has a studio at South Dartmouth. He does very good work. “Salt Works” in the lecture room in the New Bedford Library is by him.
Alden White, Long Plain, etches.
Thomas Milliken White and wife Gabriella, have done fine work in photography. Their pictures taken about North Conway are beautiful.
Frank Wood, curator of Old Dartmouth Historical Society Museum, has painted some.
Howard Wood has done artistic work in photography.
Dr. Leroy Milton Yale has painted.
Nicholas Yellenti, once a page at the Library, was a most promising pupil at the Swain School. He has exhibited. And there are many others.
Have we not produced or fostered art to an unusual extent in our community?
There is an appeal in our homey countryside, our salt water sunsets, our storied wharves. There is romance in our local history and the influence of the gentle folk whose homes dignify our streets is still felt.
I once piloted into New Bedford the grandson of Hiram Powers, the sculptor, this man himself an art instructor “born and raised” in Italy. His exclamations were fervid with enthusiasm. “Those iron gratings! Charming! Charming! How like my own Genoa.” (and this was while we were passing along one of the water front streets between Middle and Union.) Well – we are picturesque. Old streets, old buildings, Fort Phoenix and Nonquitt ledges, Smith’s Neck marshes and islands of the bay, they and much else are here for inspiration to wielders of brush and pen.
Of the art in St. Anthony’s Church, in other beautiful buildings we see every day, of art expressed in Bela Pratt’s “Harpooner” given us by William W. Crapo, and the Barnard monument, the creation of Zolnay, of art expressed in the etched ivory – work of our seafaring men – of which the Old Dartmouth Historical Society has such a splendid collection, of art in the public schools under the supervision of Miss Lucy Bedlow and her predecessor, Mrs. George Batchelor – both of whom do especially delightful watercolors – nothing can be said here.
“The Art and Artists of This Vicinity” is, indeed, the title for a book.