Window on the Marsh

March 19, 2022 — Nov. 27, 2022

Martha Hale Harvey (1863-1949), Clammers in the Great Marsh behind Wingaersheek Beach, c. 1890s. Collection of the Cape Ann Museum Library & Archives, Gloucester, MA. Printed by Anne Rearick (2021).

As part of a community-wide initiative celebrating the beauty and ecological importance of the Great Marsh, the Cape Ann Museum will present a spotlight exhibition of work of painters Martin Johnson Heade and Fitz Henry Lane, and photographer Martha Hale Harvey. Working over a century ago in different mediums, at different times and with differing approaches, each artist captured the timeless beauty of the Great Marsh in artwork that continues to inspire viewers today.

“This second rotation in the new project space created as part of the Museum’s refurbished Lane gallery, provides a unique opportunity to pair three visionary artists as well as work with a renowned contemporary photographer who has brought new attention to the accomplishments of Martha Hale Havey” said Oliver Barker, Museum Director.  “Thanks to the generosity of a private lender, we are delighted to bring to Cape Ann this important juxtaposition of these artists and their focus on the Great Marsh.”  

For nearly 45 years, Martin Johnson Heade (1819-1904), one of our nation’s most prolific and well-known painters of the 19th century, focused his artistic skills on capturing the beauty of New England’s salt marshes. Two paintings from that series, Sunny Day on the Marsh (Newburyport Meadows) (c. 1871-75) and Sunset on the Marshes (1867), both on loan from a private collection, will be on display at the Cape Ann Museum as part of Window on the Marsh.  Small, powerful paintings, the pair showcases Heade’s expertise at capturing the magnificence of the Great Marsh as light and atmosphere change during the course of the day and storms roll in off the Atlantic Ocean. 

MARTIN JOHNSON HEADE (1819-1904), Sunset on the Marshes, 1867, Oil on canvas, Private Collection, Photography by Bob Packert

Fitz Henry Lane (1804-1865) is known primarily as a marine painter, however, two of his most successful canvases are pure landscapes and include views of the marshes of Cape Ann: Babson and Ellery Houses, Gloucester, and The Babson Meadows at Riverdale. Both done in 1863, the paintings depict the Babson family homestead, located at Gloucester’s historic Town Green. For generations, the property was one of a handful of saltwater farms on Cape Ann, a family-driven venture, with its toes touching the salty waters of the Annisquam River, that produced dairy products, hay (both salt marsh and English hay) and vegetables. 

Photographers as well as painters have found inspiration in the Great Marsh and Window on the Marsh will include pictures taken by Martha Hale Harvey (1863-1949), one of Cape Ann’s earliest and more accomplished female photographers. Harvey worked with glass plate negatives and often shared her images, including those of area marshes, with her husband, George, who was a painter. For this special exhibition, display prints are being made by noted photographer Anne Rearick in the darkroom, using Harvey’s original glass plates negatives. A long-time Gloucester resident, Rearick is the recipient of a Guggenheim fellowship in photography and has worked around the world.

The exhibit will include two works by Heade, two by Lane and four by Harvey, and will have supplemental educational programing focusing on the marsh including a panel discussion to be held on March 19, 2022 at 1:00 p.m. – The Cultural and Environmental Significance of the Great Marsh. The Great Marsh was a creative catalyst for renowned American artists Fitz Henry Lane (1804-1865) and Martin Johnson Heade (1819-1904). This panel discussion, presented on the first day of a special spotlight exhibit of work by Lane and Heade, will explore the Great Marsh’s cultural and environmental significance.

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