By Gail McCarthy
---- — ROCKPORT — A rare opportunity to view a historic collection of the Cape Ann School of Painters will take place Saturday at the Rockport Art Association.
The exhibit features more than 120 paintings as well as a talk on the history and context of the Cape Ann School movement by “Antiques Roadshow” appraiser and fine art expert Colleene Fesko. The Saturday event, from 2 to 6 p.m., is free though reservations are requested.
The special one-day showing of the John F. Gale collection was organized by the Maine-based James D. Julia Auctioneers. These works will be for sale at the annual winter Antique, Asian & Fine Art auction, which will be held Jan. 30 through Feb. 1 at the auctioneer’s facility in Fairfield, Maine. Bidding also can be done online.
Gale, who resided in Cambridge and died about a year ago, is credited with assembling one of the largest and finest private collections of 20th century Cape Ann School paintings to be sold in many years. Included are 35 works by William Lester Stevens, 26 by Aldro T. Hibbard, five by Frederick Mulhaupt, three by T.M. Nicholas, and one by Emile Gruppé, among others.
Ron Straka, an artist, teacher and former president of the Rockport Art Association, knew Gale because Gale frequented auctions and events at the art association and also took painting classes from him.
“These are top-notch paintings,” Straka said. “I think he took the classes to learn about the process that artists had to do to create the paintings. He took classes to better understand what an artist had to put into a painting. The times he did come he was actually quite good for somebody who was starting out in it. When he did some paintings, some were absolutely outstanding.”
Straka also could share with his students what he learned himself as a student of the Cape Ann master painters.
“He was a modest guy and a very discerning person as far as art is concerned,” said Straka.
Bill Gage, the department head for the Antiques, Asian and Fine Arts division for James Julia auctioneers, had little more information about Gale’s background.
“I do know that he was born in Vermont, he owned some real estate, and over the years he became absolutely infatuated with the paintings of Vermont and Massachusetts. He comes from a rural background and these paintings reminded him of his past and made him happy. It’s a great testament to him that he decided not to buy paintings for who it was but the people who provided the art that made him happy,” said Gage.
Gage said Gale was rather quiet, not a flamboyant man by any means.
“His collection was not out for the world to see. It was in his house in Cambridge off a busy commercial street, and you wouldn’t even consider it a place where these paintings would be. He had two floors, which were absolutely filled from floor to ceiling with paintings,” he said. “He truly surrounded himself with art.”
Part of Gale’s collection also included vintage toys of the 1920s and 1930s variety.
Gage said this will be a landmark sale. The last time such a collection was seen of Cape Ann School art works similar in quantity and quality was a decade ago, by Red Baron Antiques in Georgia, with an estate that had close to 70 works by Anthony Thieme, 72 works by T.M. Nicholas and about 100 works by Wayne Morrell.
“So when you have this amount, such as in the Gale collection, it becomes a sort of happening,” said Gage, who noted that in terms of subject, palette, and style, this collection represents the quintessential New England aesthetic.
The auctioneers noted three works that exemplify Gale’s discerning eye that are likely to be of great interest to global fine arts enthusiasts: Lot 1010, a painting by Frederick John Mulhaupt titled “Gloucester Gill Netters.” The work depicts a peaceful, dockside view of traditional New England fishing boats, and is estimated at $50,000 to $80,000. The second, Lot 1028, a painting by Aldro Thompson Hibbard titled “West River Valley Vt.,” presents an idyllic panorama of a sleepy riverside town in winter and is estimated at $30,000 to $40,000. The third, Lot 1022, “Mill Dam” by artist William Lester Stevens depicts an aging yet still proud mill building on the snowy banks of a rocky, winding river. It is estimated at $15,000 to $20,000.
“We are delighted to be able to present this world-class body of work to our clients and collectors,” said Jim Julia, the company president and national auction authority. “The Gale Collection is without question the finest and largest offering of Cape Ann School paintings to come to auction in many years. Gale was a very discerning buyer; he was very careful about what he bought and put a lot of effort and thought into the pieces he added to his collection. Any collection that included a Frederick Mulhaupt is fortunate and Mr. Gale’s collection includes five.”
The public is invited to attend the Gale Collection exhibit event on Jan. 12, from 2 to 6 p.m. at the Rockport Art Association. There is no admission charge but space is limited. To reserve a spot, RSVP at 207-453-7125 or email@example.com by Friday, Jan. 11. For more information, visit www.jamesdjulia.com.
Gail McCarthy can be reached at 978-283-7000 x3445, or firstname.lastname@example.org.
If you go What: A viewing of the Gale Collection, 120 paintings from Cape Ann School of Artists. When: Saturday, Jan. 12, from 2 to 6 p.m. Where: Rockport Art Association at 12 Main St. in Rockport. How much: Free, but space is limited; to reserve a spot, RSVP at 207-453-7125 or email@example.com by Friday, Jan. 11. Details: For more information on James D. Julia Inc. and the company's annual winter auction, visit www.jamesdjulia.com.