Opening this week, “Celebrating Monhegan Island” showcases artwork created on the famous island from the 19th century through present day. When Captain Cook landed on Monhegan Island 400 years ago this summer, he not only noted the rich fishing grounds but also the stunning vistas. Those vistas, unspoiled to this day, have drawn artists to the rugged island for two centuries.
In 1890, Luminist William Trost Richards, painted the majestic “Blackhead.” Robert Henri, Ashcan School founder, author of The Art Spirit, and a renowned teacher, first visited Monhegan in 1903, at the behest of his close friend, artist Edward Redfield, a Boothbay Harbor resident. Thoroughly smitten with the island, Henri wrote to his New York students George Bellows and Rockwell Kent: “This is the real thing. This is a wonderful place to paint — so much in so small a place.” Henri’s elegiac “The Sea” depicts a soft, blue day looking from the island across Duck Rocks toward the mainland. In “Prayer Meeting,” a rare, but well-known lithograph, Bellows captures an animated sermon being given in the Monhegan church. Many other Henri students made their way to Monhegan Island over the next few decades. Emil Holzhauer came in the 1920s and returned many times during the 30s, 40s, and 50s. In “Monhegan Dock,” Holzhauer depicts the busy town pier. Andrew Winter was one of the few artists who lived year-round on Monhegan for a time. The magnificent “Pulpit Rock” puts the craggy pulpit rock front and center with Blackhead in the background and gulls wheeling above the turgid ocean. Abraham Bogdanove painted on the island in the 1930s and 40s. In “Manana from Monhegan,” Bogdanove places a fisherman’s shack and dory in the foreground with a fishing smack floating in Monhegan Harbor in mid-ground.
Modernists James Fitzgerald and Ernest Fiene were on the island working at mid-century. Fiene’s striking “In for the Night” shows lobstermen unloading their boats at day’s end. Fitzgerald’s powerful “Rough Seas” shows the artist’s skill at painting Monhegan’s notorious seas.
Interest in the island did not stop at the end of the millennium. Artists Henry Isaacs, Peter Sculthorpe, Peter Poskas, Andrea Peters, and Phil Frey have all added to the island’s artistic legacy. In Isaacs’s exuberant “Cliffs at Lobster Cove,” the artist uses hot tangerines and yellows to create a feeling that Monhegan in summer is second only to Provence for heat and color.
Celebrating Monhegan Island opens this week and runs through July 26. Gleason Fine Art is located at 31 Townsend Avenue in the center of Boothbay Harbor. For more information call 207-633-6849, email firstname.lastname@example.org, or visit gleasonfineart.com.