An artwork by a celebrated 19th century American artist Winslow Homer will come back to the place where it was painted — in Gloucester — thanks to a promised gift by a Cape Ann couple.
The painting, "Boy Hailing Schooners, 1880," was recently hung for the first time at the Cape Ann Museum, and its arrival coincides with the final days of the museum’s nationally acclaimed and most popular exhibition to date, "Homer at the Beach: A Marine Painter’s Journey, 1869-1880."
This watershed exhibit will close on Sunday, Dec. 1, but the painting will remain at the museum for a number of months afterward, said museum director Oliver Barker.
The museum label for the painting states: "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 100 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.”
The watercolor is on a wall adjacent to the "Homer at the Beach" exhibition, which features 51 original works by Homer and represents the first close examination of the formation of this 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.
This pivotal exhibition traces the artistic trajectory of Homer (1836-1910), beginning in 1869 when the artist first exhibited his 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 marine destinations from New Jersey to Maine, but especially — and repeatedly — to Gloucester and other parts of Cape Ann," according to the museum press release.
"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."
The promised gift of this watercolor comes at a time when the museum is focused on growth.
"We are so very grateful for this important work to join our growing permanent collection,” Barker said. "This is part of an effort to strategically grow our collection in the coming years 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 promised gift comes from Janet and William "Wilber" Ellery James, whose family history on Cape Ann goes back many generations. He serves on the museum’s Board of Directors, and she serves as an adviser on the museum’s Finance Committee.
"We are delighted to add this important work by Homer to our promised gifts to the Cape Ann Museum’s collections," they said in a joint statement. "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."
Cape Ann is among the country’s oldest art colonies and it has attracted a "who's who" of American artists for centuries. That importance is reflected in the collection of the Cape Ann Museum, which contains works by many of the artists who traveled 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)," according to the press release.
The museum has extended hours for the final day of the Homer exhibit this Sunday, Dec. 1, from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.
More information is available by visiting capeannmuseum.org or calling 978-283-0455.
IF YOU GO
What: Last days of The exhibition "Homer at the Beach: A Marine Painter's Journey, 1869-1880."
When: Friday, Saturday and this Sunday only, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Where: Cape Ann Museum, 27 Pleasant St., Gloucester.
How much: $12 for adults, $10 for Cape Ann residents, seniors and students. Youth (18 and under) and members are free.