JANE PETERSON (1876–1965)
The Beach, Gloucester, about 1915
Gouache on paper, 18 x 24 in.
Signed (at lower right): JANE PETERSON
EX COLL: the artist; to her nephew, Bernard Beck, Southampton, New York; to private collection, 1980 until the present
The bustling fishing port of Gloucester and the nearby beaches of Cape Ann were among Jane Peterson’s favorite domestic haunts. She returned there repeatedly during her most active years, between 1910 and 1924, and, once she married Bernard Philipp, maintained a home in nearby Ipswich. Jane Peterson first visited Gloucester for a series of summers during the years of World War I. At a time when her accustomed fishing ports of Holland, Belgium, England, and Brittany were inaccessible, Gloucester offered a patriotic equivalent, made all the more attractive by an easy rail journey from New York and Boston. Although there is, at present, no precise chronology of Peterson’s travels, she exhibited Gloucester views as early as 1915 and regularly thereafter. In choosing Gloucester, Peterson followed a well-trod path. The atmospheric fishing village on Cape Ann in the northeast corner of Massachusetts had attracted artists ever since the mid-nineteenth century, when it was made famous by its native son and lifelong resident, the artist Fitz Henry Lane (1804–1865). As one resident artist, Frederick J. Mulhaupt (1871–1938) noted, Gloucester “duplicates any view I care to paint”. Indeed, with its steep and narrow streets winding down to a busy harbor, its heroic fisher folk, and its seascapes and leisure beaches, Gloucester’s variety of subjects offered inspiration for generations of artists including Winslow Homer, William Morris Hunt, Childe Hassam, Willard Metcalf, Edward Potthast, John Twachtman, Edward Hopper, John Sloan, Stuart Davis, and Maurice Prendergast. Peterson painted Gloucester town and harbor views, as well as nearby beaches. Always, however, the leisure scene of bathers enjoying a sunny day on a sandy strand remained a Peterson favorite. Painting in an post-impressionist idiom, Peterson here sets her crowd of beachgoers against the backdrop of blue sky and white sand. The painting can be dated by gauging the outfits of the crowd, appropriate to about 1915, after the covered-up modesty of the late nineteenth century, with arms and even some legs showing, but well before the abbreviated bathing outfits of the early 1920s.