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10 Women Artists You Won’t Want to Miss

at the Cape Ann Museum

THERESA BERNSTEIN (1890-2002), Self-Portrait, 1916, Oil on canvas, The James Collection, Gift of Janet & William Ellery James to the Cape Ann Museum, 2024 [Accession # 2024.008.001]

Join us as we celebrate the achievements of women artists inspired by Cape Ann during Women’s History Month.  Explore the Museum’s galleries and discover works by ten female artists who worked in this region and who are represented in the Museum’s permanent collection.

On View: L1 Reception

Strong Breezes and passing Clouds by Diane KW

DIANE KW (b. 1951)
Strong Breezes and Passing Clouds
Chinese export plates and ceramic transfers
Gift of the artist, 2014
Installation made possible, in part, by the Kanter Kallman Foundation
[Accession #2014.047]

Working from archival materials in the Cape Ann Museum’s library, ceramic and multimedia artist Diane KW created an intricate installation that can be viewed at the entrance to the Museum exploring the lives of a typical Gloucester seafaring family during the early 19th century. The display in made up of four panels and incorporates ceramic shards collected from shipwrecks in the South China Sea, and the Atlantic and Pacific oceans.  Diane divides her time between Cape Ann and Hawaii and is a true believer that art should be able to be enjoyed everywhere.

Find the guide to Diane KW’s permanent exhibit in our Museum Store or online: Strong Breezes & Passing Clouds: An Installation by Diane KW

On View: L1 Cape Ann Gallery

Susannah Paine Hannah Fuller Smith Stanwood

SUSANNAH PAINE (1792-1862)
Portrait of Hannah Fuller (Smith) Stanwood (1803-1834)
Oil on wood panel

Susannah Paine was one of the earliest portrait painters on Cape Ann and the first professional woman artist to work in the area.  Paine was an itinerant artist who earned her livelihood traveling from community to community doing portraits on a commission basis. She worked on Cape Ann during the 1830s and 1840s.

Born in Rehoboth, Massachusetts, Paine attended a girls’ academy where she learned to read and write and was exposed to art.  In 1819 she was married, and two years later gave birth to a son who died in infancy.  In 1823, Paine was granted a divorce from her husband.  Shortly thereafter, she began traveling around New England painting portraits.

Paine relied on local newspapers to give patrons advance notice of her arrival and to advertise her skills and her fees. By 1834, she had discovered Cape Ann and found work painting portraits of several families in the village of Annisquam.  In 1854, Susannah Paine published Roses and Thorns, or Recollections of an Artist, an autobiographical work.  In it she recalled her first impressions of Cape Ann:  the scenery was delightful; and the people, just to my liking.  Everything was free, easy and agreeable…Cape Ann … was a singular place. No one was very poor; they all seemed on an equality…

On View: L1 Atrium Gallery

MARY SHORE (1912-2000)
The Sullen Sea
c. 1960
Oil on panel
Gift of Brian Shore, 2001
[Accession # 2001.039.002]

Mary (McGarrity) Shore was born in Philadelphia in 1912. She studied at the Art Institute of Chicago and Cooper Union and was known as a painter and assemblage-artist. Shore came to Cape Ann with her first husband during the 1940s and by the late 1950s was living in East Gloucester. In 1968, she married poet Vincent Ferrini; it may have been through Ferrini that she met poet Charles Olson with whom she corresponded often during the 1950s and 1960s.

Mary Shore’s paintings have a romantic, almost mystical quality to them. Most often done in oil, sometimes incorporating gold leaf, they combine abstract shapes and designs with a distinctly organic feeling. Shore also created assembled pieces made of found objects. We know from correspondence between Shore and artist Louise Nevelson that Shore sometimes collected driftwood from the beaches near her home in East Gloucester and shared it with Nevelson who used it in her sculpture.

On View: L1 Fitz Henry Lane Gallery

Mary Blood Mellen Field Beach

Field Beach
Oil on canvas over board
Gift of Jean Stanley Dise, 1964
[Accession # 2019.2]

Although often thought of in terms of her mentor, Fitz Henry Lane, Mary Blood Mellen was a talented and accomplished artist in her own right who commands a place in the history of art on Cape Ann.

Born in 1819, Mellen grew up in central Massachusetts and in 1840 married Rev. Charles W. Mellen, a minister.  Fifteen years later, Charles Mellen’s brother, who was also a minister, was called to serve in Gloucester.  It was probably because of that posting that Mary Blood Mellen visited Gloucester and established a friendship with Fitz Henry Lane. Mellen quickly became Lane’s student and collaborator; indeed, Lane gave her access to his preliminary drawings and allowed her to assist him on at least one of his canvases.  Stylistic examination of numerous Lane paintings in the Cape Ann Museum’s collection suggests that she may have had a hand in many of them.

As a copyist, Mary Blood Mellen took pride in creating works that mirrored Lane’s.  A contemporary wrote this passage heralding her success:  Mrs. Mellen is so faithful in the copies of her master, that even an expert might take them for originals.  Indeed, an anecdote is related of her, which will exemplify her power in this direction.  She had just completed a copy of one of Mr. Lane’s pictures when he called at her residence to see it.  The copy and the original were brought down from the studio together, and the master, much to the amusement of those present, was unable to tell which was his own, and which was his pupil’s.    

While Lane may have feigned his inability to tell his own painting from Mellen’s, scholars today point to subtle and important differences that distinguish each artist’s work.  They include Lane’s eye for detail and his genius at capturing it with crisp and precise lines; his skill at painting vessels so that they appear to be floating in the water, rather than bobbing on top of it is also often called out. Mellen’s work, on the other hand, displays a preference for a more vivid color palette than Lane’s and a tendency towards softer, less meticulous brushwork, a preference that often makes her work feel more painterly.

From the 2023 mini exhibit, enjoy the corresponding mini catalog available in the Museum store or online: The Art of Mary Blood Mellen

On View: LL Atrium Gallery

Doris Prouty Lanes Cove

Lanes Cove
Hand Appliqué, Embroidery, Cotton Cloth
Gift of the Prouty Family, 2022
[Accession #2022.093.001]

Doris Prouty was a resident of Gloucester for nearly 50 years, a self-taught African American quilter, a beloved member of the community, a teacher and a mother. Her quilts explore many traditions of American quilting, from familiar patterning to elaborate appliqué. Together they narrate the stories of her life, her imagination, and her community here on Cape Ann.

Born and raised in Queens, New York, Prouty settled in Gloucester’s Lanesville neighborhood in 1972. In 1978, while her children were still young, she began commuting to Boston University becoming the first person in her family to receive a college degree. She took up quilting with her sister in the 1980s and was a founding member of the Ebony Quilters of Queens.

For Prouty, quilting was a means of creative expression, and a way of building community. She experimented with- and mastered- new techniques and color strategies, creating pieces that ranged from small studies, to bed quilts, to elaborate appliqué scenes. Over time, her work became increasingly complex, and themes emerged, such as imagined scenes of Africa, and images from Gloucester. This hand appliquéd quilt shows Lanes Cove on the north side of Cape Ann. It is a piece that Prouty worked on for a number of years between other projects. Her design and sewing talents are reflected in the careful piecing of the granite blocks that make up the breakwater.

On View: LL Auditorium & Granite Gallery

Gabrielle de Veaux Clements The Derrick

The Derrick (Rockport Quarry)
Etching on paper
Gift of Harold and Betty Bell, 1999
[Accession #1999.037.001]

Gabrielle de Veaux Clements was an accomplished and multi-talented artist.  She began her career in 1875, studying lithography at the Philadelphia School of Design for Women.  Five years later she was awarded a Bachelor of Science from Cornell.  During the early 1880s, Clements was a student of Thomas Eakins at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts.  In 1883, she began studying etching with Stephen Parrish, a well-known Philadelphia artist and teacher who spent several summers in Gloucester. Etching was a medium that Clements would work in for the rest of her life.

It was during the time that she studied with Stephen Parrish that Clements first came to Cape Ann, staying with Parrish’s entourage at the Fairview Inn in East Gloucester.  By the early years of the 20th century, she and fellow Philadelphia artist Ellen Day Hale (1855-1940) had established themselves as summer residents of Folly Cove on the back of the Cape.  With adjoining studios, the two women found themselves at the center of a vibrant and talented circle of artists, men and women, who gravitated to the outlying neighborhood during the 1910s and 1920s.

In addition to being a printmaker, Clements also produced murals and easel paintings.

On View: L2 Maritime & Fisheries

Margaret Fitzhugh Browne Howard Blackburn

Howard Blackburn, The Lone Voyager
Oil on canvas
Gift of the Master Mariners’ Association, Gloucester
[Accession # 2012.049.001]

Like many women artists of the late 19th and early 20th century, Margaret Fitzhugh Browne began her artistic career producing illustrations for magazine covers.  Very quickly, however, she turned to painting and specifically to portraiture.

Brown’s work during her early career was strongly influenced by Joseph DeCamp and Edmund Tarbell and is best described as being of the Boston School.  Her modeling was careful and well thought out, her compositions were harmonious, and her emphasis was on the beauty of the sitter.  By 1915 she had begun exhibiting in galleries in and around Boston and in 1917, her work was included in an exhibition at Vose Gallery entitled The First Annual Exhibition of Women Painters of Boston.  In addition to Browne, the exhibit featured works by a number of Boston’s leading women artists including Cecilia Beaux, Elizabeth Wentworth Roberts, Polly Nordell and Gertrude Fiske.

In this portrait, Margaret Fitzhugh Browne captures Gloucester’s famed Lone Voyager, Howard Blackburn.  She shows him late in life, sitting on a wharf overlooking the harbor.  For many years, this portrait hung in the rooms of the Master Mariner’s Association, a gathering spot for Gloucester’s fishing captains.

On View: L3 Atrium Gallery

Field Near High Popples
Oil on canvas
Gift of Catherine Bayliss, 2021
[Accession # 2021.066.001]

Celia Eldridge has been living and working in Gloucester since the early 1970s.  She studied at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts and has taught at Montserrat College of Art in Beverly, MA, and privately.  Often working on a large scale, her work is characterized by bold use of color and energetic compositions.

Eldridge was one of many women who benefited from participating in the Bunting Institute at Radcliffe. Founded in 1961, the program provided support to women scholars, artists and writers in the form of stipends, workspace and access to university resources.  It allowed women the opportunity to work wile managing their domestic responsibilities.

On View: L3 Special Exhibition Galleries

Theresa Bernstein Self Portrait

Oil on canvas
The James Collection, Gift of Janet & William Ellery James to the Cape Ann Museum, 2024
[Accession # 2024.008.001]

Theresa Bernstein was born in Poland and was brought to this country as a child. She studied at the Pennsylvania Academy of Art, the Philadelphia School of Design for Women, and the Art Students League in New York. She was a founding member of the Philadelphia Ten. Organized in 1917, The Ten was made up of women artists who exhibited their works together at a time when shows of artwork done exclusively by women were uncommon.

Bernstein came to Gloucester for the first time in 1916; after her marriage to fellow artist William Meyerowitz in 1919, the couple began regularly spending summers on Cape Ann and winters in New York.  During the early 1920s, summers were spent in Gloucester’s Folly Cove neighborhood in a cottage loaned to them by artist Ellen Day Hale. They then purchased a summer house in East Gloucester.  The couple quickly became figureheads of the Cape Ann art scene.

Find out more about Theresa Bernstein in the volume Theresa Bernstein: American Modernist (1890-2002) available instore or online.

Anna Hyatt Huntington Diana of the Chase

Diana of the Chase
The James Collection, Gift of Janet & William Ellery James to the Cape Ann Museum, 2022
[Accession # 2022.066]

Anna Vaughn Hyatt Huntington was born in Cambridge, and brought to Gloucester’s Annisquam neighborhood during summers as a child by her parents.  While Huntington would study for a short time under sculptors Henry H. Kitson in Boston and Hermon A. MacNeil at the Art Students’ League in New York, she always thought of herself as a self-taught artist, crediting her older sister, Harriet, with sparking her interest in sculpture when she was in her teens.

In 1902, Huntington moved to New York City to pursue her career as a sculptor, a bold move for a woman at that time; she maintained a summer studio on her family’s property in Annisquam. In 1907, she traveled to France to continue her work and by the 1910s, had established herself as one of this country’s leading sculptors.  In 1916, having already had her work accepted for the 1910 Salon in Paris, she was awarded associate membership in the National Academy and in 1923, full membership.  That same year, Anna married Archer Huntington, a wealthy businessman and philanthropist.  With her marriage, she gave up her Annisquam studio, turning her attention to the development of Brookgreen Gardens in Murrells Inset, South Carolina.

Diana of the Chase was modeled and cast in 1922.  This sculpture earned Huntington the coveted Saltus Medal at the National Academy of Design and assured her recognition as a full National Academician.  Diana of the Chase was preceded in 1915 by the work for which Huntington is best known here on Cape Ann:  her Joan of Arc memorial which was presented to the City of Gloucester in 1921 by the French Government and is located in front of the American Legion building on Washington Street