Cape Ann Museum receives promised gift of Winslow Homer watercolor painting for permanent collection
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Cape Ann Museum receives promised gift of Winslow Homer watercolor painting for permanent collection
Winslow Homer (1836–1910), Boy Hailing Schooners, 1880. Watercolor and graphite on paper. The James Collection, Promised Gift of Janet and William Ellery James to the Cape Ann Museum.

GLOUCESTER, MASS.- The Cape Ann Museum has received the promised gift of a significant watercolor by the American artist, Winslow Homer (1836–1910), for its permanent collection. This painting, Boy Hailing Schooners, 1880, was hung for the first time at the Museum this weekend and arrives just before the Museum’s nationally acclaimed and most popular exhibition to date, Homer at the Beach: A Marine Painter’s Journey, 1869-1880, closes December 1.

“We are so very grateful for this important work to join our growing permanent collection,” said Museum Director Oliver Barker. “It points to our concerted strategy to strategically build the Museum’s collections by adding significant and iconic works that attest to the paramount role that Cape Ann has played in shaping both American art and history.”

This new addition is a promised gift from Janet and William Ellery James, whose family history on Cape Ann goes back many generations. William (“Wilber”) serves on the Museum’s Board of Directors, and Janet serves as an advisor on the Museum’s Finance Committee. In a joint statement the Jameses shared, “We are delighted to add this important work by Homer to our promised gifts to the Cape Ann Museum’s collections. It represents the coming home of a work that, like so many others in the museum, tells the story of a time and place that was important in our nation’s history. We also hope to inspire other collectors to similarly strengthen the Cape Ann Museum’s holdings.”

This announcement also comes during the final week of Homer at the Beach: A Marine Painter’s Journey, 1869-1880, an exhibition of 51 original works by Homer and the first close examination of the formation of this great artist as a marine painter. The exhibit includes loans from more than 50 public and private collections and has drawn record numbers of visitors. The Cape Ann Museum is the sole venue.

“In Boy Hailing Schooners, an adolescent boy with hat raised and arm outstretched looks west,” as described in the wall text for the new addition. “The boy is standing on Shag Rock on Ten Pound Island in the center of Gloucester Harbor where the artist lodged with the lighthouse keeper during the summer of 1880. This watercolor is one of over one hundred works that Homer executed during this extended visit to Cape Ann. The boy’s dually triumphant and inquisitive salute welcomes brave fishermen returning home during an age when Gloucester was America’s largest fishing port and fishing was a dangerous necessity of the local economy. The picture marries two of Homer’s most important Cape Ann themes: The travails of boyhood and the hard lives of working fishing families.” This wall text will accompany the painting which is being shown adjacent to the Homer at the Beach exhibition.

Homer at the Beach, traces Homer’s artistic trajectory beginning in 1869 when the artist exhibited his first marine painting. Homer was an ambitious New York illustrator—not yet recognized as an artist—and freshly back from France. Over the next 11 years, Homer’s journey would take him to a variety of marine destinations, from New Jersey to Maine, but especially—and repeatedly—to Gloucester and other parts of Cape Ann. It was on Cape Ann that Homer made his first watercolors and where he first developed an identity as a marine artist. And it was in Gloucester in 1880, at the end of these 11 years, where he enjoyed the most productive season of his life, forever changing his life and the art of America.

Cape Ann has long been recognized as one of this country’s oldest and most important art colonies and the collection of the Cape Ann Museum contains examples of works by many of the artists who came to Cape Ann, including Cecilia Beaux, Marsden Hartley, Edward Hopper, Milton Avery, Anna Hyatt Huntington and John Sloan. At the heart of the Museum’s holdings is the single largest collection of works by early 19th century artist Fitz Henry Lane (1804-1865).

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