Provincetown art students painting en plein air

Artists at Work, Provincetown Cape Cod

Artists at Work, Provincetown Cape Cod

Painting in the open air, (en plein air in French), has been a favorite practice of artists in Provincetown, Massachusetts since Charles Hawthorne (1872- 1930) founded the  Cape Cod School of Art in 1899. Given Provincetown’s waterfront setting, one might assume that Hawthorne’s students always set up their box easels on the beach.  The sun’s reflection on the water, and the light and shadows on the sand, were perfect starting points to practice the concepts of Impressionism, which put an important emphasis on capturing on canvas, the artist’s impression of how light changes throughout the day. . Not true, as shown in this antique postcard published by H.A. Dickerman & Son, Taunton, Massachusetts in approximately 1900.  The students, primarily female, are painting a portrait of the model positioned in the right, dressed in a while summer frock and hat with a long braid. Student artists often used local citizens as their models.

The availability of paints in tubes made painting en plein air, so much easier when compared to the practice of grinding and mixing pigment powders with linseed oil.  Notice in the photograph that the boxes to hold paints and contain a palette, also made transporting equipment for painting outside so much easier.  Artists came from all over the world. and still do, to live and work in what was originally a fishing village.

Creating art is important to Annie Tinker, a sculptor who first came to Provincetown as a student at the Fine Arts Work Center. One of the characters in the recently released novel, Remaining in Provincetown by S. N. Cook.  She’s married to Beau Costa, the former business partner of Sonny Carreiro who has been murdered. Could Beau be a suspect?  Haven’t read the book yet? Signed copies are available at the Provincetown Bookshop downtown on Commercial Street or you can buy a trade paperback or ebook online at a variety of sites including Amazon.  Visit our Facebook page , like us and join the conversation.

Provincetown artists instrumental in starting Cape Cod museum

Provincetown Art Association and Museum  original building

Provincetown Art Association and Museum original building purchased in 1919

The above vintage postcard shows what the Provincetown Art Association and Museum (PAAM) looked like before the addition of the Charles Hawthorne Gallery and the subsequent addition of the Contemporary glass wing visitors see today. The veteran institution, located at 460 Commercial Street in the town’s East End,  was founded in 1914 by artists who were seeking both exhibition space and an institution that would be supportive  of the artists who had made the small town on the tip of Cape Cod their home. Oscar Gierberich, Gerrit Beneker, E. Ambrose Webster, Charles Hawthorne, and William Halsail are credited in the history books as being  the founding artists who were supported in their efforts by a number of local businesspeople at the time.The building was initially purchased and renovated in 1919.

PAAM has had a long tradition of organizing a number of exhibitions, some open to members and others juried, during the year. With the addition of more space, a larger permanent collection has been established and a variety of  programs and classes for all ages are offered trhroughout the year, with more going on during the summer season when there is a larger audience. 1914 is almost 100 years ago, and PAAM will thus be celebrating their 100th anniversary next year. Check the PAAM website to find out what is scheduled for this summer and read the new mystery novel Remaining in Provincetown by S.N. Cook  to fully appreciate that importance of how artists have contributed to the community. (Writers are artists too!) The book, just released in April is available at local bookstores, and online at in trade paperback or ebook. Like us on Facebook. Keep the conversation going.

Provincetown art schools and artists

An Art Class at Work

An Art Class at Work

Artists clustered together on a dock painting a scene of  a Provincetown Wharf in summer. How could they work, all crowded together? The clear north light on the tip of Cape Cod attracted artists from all over the world. Many of these artists were also  teachers. Thus more aspiring artists were drawn to Cape Cod to study drawing and painting and dozens stayed and made Cape Cod their permanent home. Thus Provincetown become known as an art colony. Today the town is home to the Fine Arts Work Center as well, where students of writing, sculpture, painting, and drawing work year-round.

One of the most popular art teachers was Charles Hawthorne (1872-1930) and many of his fine oil paintings are in the collection of the Provincetown Art Association and Museum.  Hawthorne founded the Cape Cod School of Art. Be sure to visit the Provincetown Art Association and Museum if you are a new visitor to the town to see his masterful portraits, still lifes, and landscapes.    Many artists had art schools including Hans Hoffman,  Seong Moy, who taught printmaking, and Henry Henche.  Hawthorne taught his students to focus on capturing the contrasts in colors and light and to work quickly with confidence.  These are still good life lessons that could be applied to everything including writing. Read any good books lately? The new novel, coming this summer Remaining in Provincetown, is almost on its way to the printer.