God Bless Art: The Portraits of Earle Merchant

April 9, 2016 — May 28, 2016

The Cape Ann Museum has recently acquired a collection of 46 portraits of everyday Cape Ann people done by self-taught artist Earle T. Merchant (1903–1997). The collection was donated to the Museum by the Rockport Art Association and will be featured in a special exhibition opening on April 9, 2016 with a public reception from 3:00 to 5:00 p.m.

Earle Merchant was born in Gloucester in 1903, graduated from Gloucester High School and went on to study at Boston University Law School. By the late 1920s, Merchant had joined a law practice with offices on Main Street in Gloucester.

In the early 1960s, Merchant took up portrait painting and volunteered as “monitor” of sketch groups at the Rockport Art Association. Over a span of 20 years, Merchant captured the likenesses of hundreds of Cape Ann residents, from Floyd the Clam Digger to district judges, ministers and businessmen.

Writing in the 1990 edition of the Rockport Art Association’s 70th annual exhibit catalog, Earle Merchant had this to say about his painting:

I am, essentially, a self-taught artist. My earlier works leaned towards the primitive, but they became less of that style as I progressed. I like people, especially children. This probably accounts for achieving notable likenesses in finished portraits. I value highly my companionship over the years with so many talented fellow artists. Cape Ann is fortunate to have such high quality artists. God bless art and its Associations.


Press:

Keith Powers, Love of Creating Art Shines Through (Cape Ann Beacon 4/15/16)

Gail McCarthy, God Bless Art (Gloucester Daily Times 4/7/16)


Earle T. Merchant (1903–1997). (left to right) Mary Edna Lane, 1964; Judge Norman Espovich, 1965; Mrs. Nancy Ives, 1964. Oil on canvas board (16 x 12 in.). Gift of the Rockport Art Association, 2015 [Acc. #2015.029].

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