You can’t talk about Cape Ann art without talking about artist colonies!

January 20, 2022

William Meyerowitz (1896-1981), Gloucester Humoresque, 1923, oil on canvas. Collection of the Cape Ann Museum, Gloucester, MA. Gift of James F. O’Gorman and Jean Baer O'Gorman, 1985 [Acc. #2510.4].

Dear Friends,

We are delighted to share that due to popular demand the Museum is extending the Cape Ann & Monhegan Island Vistas exhibition through March 31, 2022. Please do visit this inspiring look into the importance and inspiration of place. This weekend we hope that you will join the Cape Ann Museum and other local organizations for the first ever Gloucester’s So Salty, January 22 and 23, from 1 to 4 pm.

Just a reminder that the Museum is continuing to require all visitors to wear masks indoors. Visitors 12+ must show proof of vaccination and all visitors 18+ must show an ID.

With the New Year and many exciting exhibitions and initiatives planned for 2022, we are delighted to also announce that Henrietta Gates, formerly the Vice Chair of the Museum’s Board of Trustees, is now taking over from Charles Esdaile as Chair. Henrietta brings many years of experience working with non-profits to her new Board Chair position and has been an invaluable resource as a CAM Board member over the last eight years.

Sincere thanks also to Charles Esdaile who will continue to serve on CAM’s Board of Trustees and who oversaw an unprecedented time in Museum’s history – the transition to new leadership, the delivery of the nationally acclaimed Homer at the Beach exhibition, the opening of the Cape Ann Museum Green, and the many ways CAM has pivoted during the pandemic to continue to support the Cape Ann community and tell its stories.

Looking forward to seeing you all soon at CAM, stay safe, warm and please do join us for some outdoor fun as part of Gloucester’s So Salty this Saturday and Sunday!

Oliver Barker, Director


You can’t talk about Cape Ann art without talking about artist colonies, and in this issue of CAM Connects, we take a deep dive into the subject.

So, what exactly is an artist colony? The word “colony” itself has had a variety of historic meanings that range from the natural gathering of organisms to the conquest of lands by foreign nations. The word’s complicated history has even led some artist communities to avoid “artist colony” altogether. Put simply, an artist colony is a community of artists that gather in a particular place.

Though some of these communities develop through intentioned effort and others by happenstance, it is inspiration that sustains them. Many artists travel to find inspiration, and if they find it, they may put down roots. If not, they may seek out other colonies, both searching for and planting the seeds of inspiration along the way.

Here on Cape Ann, as the first artist colonies began to appear in the mid-19th century, they soon became synonymous with the neighborhoods from which they emerged: places like Rocky Neck, Magnolia, Annisquam, Folly Cove and Lanesville. Read on to discover what ties these local colonies to those of Monhegan Island and Greenwich Village, take a closer look at the history of the Rocky Neck Art Colony, view a window into the past through the CAM Video Vault, and experience a different perspective on the art colony phenomenon with a poem from the CAM Library & Archives. 

Monhegan & Cape Ann

In the years immediately following the Civil War, art colonies began springing up in this country, their growth facilitated by improvements in transportation and the rise of leisure time for many Americans. For artists it was increasingly possible to get away during the summer and spend a few days or perhaps weeks at the seashore or the mountains practicing their art in the company of kindred spirits. Some of the longest-lived and most influential summer art colonies were here in New England, and two of them—the island of Monhegan off the coast of Maine and Cape Ann—are the subject of a special exhibition currently on display at CAM.

(Left) Leon Kroll (1884-1974), Sunlit Sea, 1913, oil on board. Monhegan Museum of Art & History, Gift of Remak Ramsay, 2001.
(Right) Leon Kroll (1884-1974), Eden Road, Rockport, 1961, oil on board. Collection of the Cape Ann Museum, Gloucester, MA. Gift of Marie Claude Rose, 1988 [Acc. #2591].

Organized by the Monhegan Museum of Art & History and the Cape Ann Museum, Cape Ann and Monhegan Island Vistas offers a survey of artists who worked in both locales, primarily during the early to mid-20th century. Included are works by Theresa Bernstein, Walter Farndon, Emile A. Gruppé, Charles Movalli and Olga Sears. A catalog accompanies the exhibition with an essay by James F. O’Gorman who curated the show. An excerpt from that essay recently appeared in American Art Review magazine and can be viewed here. CAM staff members Oliver Barker and Martha Oaks can be seen discussing the show with arts commentator Jared Bowen here.

Cape Ann and Greenwich Village: John Sloan and the Modernist Connection

John Sloan (1871-1951), Sunflowers on Rocky Neck, 1914, oil on canvas. Collection of the Cape Ann Museum, Gloucester, MA. Gift of Alfred Mayor and Martha M. Smith, 2008 [Acc. #2008.14].

On January 23, 1917, six artists climbed the stairs of the Washington Square Arch in Greenwich Village, New York City. Calling themselves the “Arch Conspirators,” they had two goals: to make their declaration for “The Free and Independent Republic of Washington Square” and to party. They brought with them food, liquor, hot water bottles, red balloons, and toy pistols (Washington Square Blog). When they reached the top, they read the "Declaration of Independence of the Greenwich Republic" and lit a small fire for warmth. By the morning, the bohemian residents of the Village applauded their late-night shenanigans. The wealthy inhabitants of Washington Square Park North were not amused.

That summer, one of those rabble-rousers would stay in East Gloucester and paint Our Red Cottage (1917), Lilacs; Norman’s Woe (1917); Main Street, Gloucester (1917), and many other local scenes. On that freezing night in January, none other than John Sloan climbed those stairs with fellow artists Gertrude Drick and Marcel Duchamp, and actors Forrest Mann, Charles Ellis, and Betty Turner. Sloan’s — and other New York Modernist’s — summers in Gloucester were not only artistically prolific, they also created a critical link between Greenwich Village and Cape Ann’s artist colonies. Sloan, Stuart Davis, Charles Winter, Marsden Hartley, and many others spent their summers in Cape Ann working, relaxing, and exhibiting. One can only imagine the raucous conversation on top of Washington Square Arch that January night, a tale that was surely recounted during a croquet match or clambake on Rocky Neck.   

Continue reading here.

The Art Colony on Rocky Neck

By Courtney Richardson
Director of the Rocky Neck Art Colony

Rocky Neck Artists’ Ball, c. 1937. Photograph by Eleanor Parke Custis. Collection of the Cape Ann Museum Library & Archives, Gloucester, MA.

Today Rocky Neck Art Colony (RNAC) comprises 275 artists and community members. Membership is inclusive and welcomes artists and art enthusiasts from beyond the neighborhood. While there are only a handful of artists who call Rocky Neck home, like Ruth Mordecai, Sallie Strand, Brenda Malloy, Elynn Kroger and Stephen LaPierre, the spirit of the art colony is carried forward by all the artists and community members of RNAC. The mission of the Rocky Neck Art Colony, Inc. is to nurture excellence in the arts and to celebrate the artistic history and culture of Rocky Neck. Its members proudly consider themselves the oldest art colony in America, a magnet for artists since the 1840s.

Much of what attracted artists to Rocky Neck nearly 200 years ago is still visible today. The peninsula affords the observer spectacular views of Gloucester’s inner and outer harbor, the natural beauty of the surrounding shore, and all that lies within. When Fitz Henry Lane documented this area in the 19th century at a time when Gloucester was on the verge of industrial growth, the population on the Neck was sparse. The causeway had been built in 1848 and only a dozen houses were scattered about. Within 21 years, Tarr & Wonson Paint Factory and Gloucester Marine Railway would be built, as would the homes, warehouses and other buildings needed to support these businesses. The population growth was so rapid that a school was built on Wonson Street in 1867, and in 1877 the Giles Chapel was constructed to serve religious and other cultural and social needs of the community. Hotels, tourists, and artists quickly followed. These conditions created the perfect environment for an art colony to thrive.

Continue reading here

CAM Video Vault - The Influence of Cape Ann’s Artist Colonies

Our first Video Vault feature captures a lecture by Mary Rhinelander McCarl. Mary, who passed away in June of 2021, was a resident of Gloucester and a long-time volunteer at the Cape Ann Museum. She held advanced degrees from Radcliffe College, Harvard, Simmons, and UMass/Boston. She was also an accomplished artist who enjoyed painting here on Cape Ann and around New England.

Working in watercolor, acrylic and collage, Mary often painted from nature, searching for color and motion in the world around her. Confined to her home due to declining health and the pandemic during the last year of her life, Mary focused intently on her artwork, creating over 150 collages. She entitled the portfolio Collages in Corona Time.

When she wasn’t combing through the Museum’s archives or preparing a lecture, Mary McCarl could be found participating in art classes at the Rose Baker Senior Center in Gloucester. Through that engagement she helped create the Center’s "Neighborhoods of Cape Ann" quilt series which is now part of the collection of the Cape Ann Museum.

Video still of McCarl from VL33 – The Beginnings of the Art Colonies of Cape Ann, 1875-1923. Speaker: Mary Rhinelander McCarl. Date: 5/28/2011. Collection of the Cape Ann Museum Library & Archives, Gloucester, MA. Click here for lecture transcript.

In this 2011 lecture, Mary speaks about the early years of the art colonies that flourished on Cape Ann. Drawn by the picturesque, accessible, and relatively inexpensive setting, significant numbers of artists from several metropolitan areas began to gather in Gloucester towards the end of the 19th century. McCarl highlights the careers of a few who were instrumental in establishing the arts-focused tenor of neighborhoods such as Annisquam and Rocky Neck, and she also explores how their presence blended with locally born artists. Her discussion includes both men and women and is presented within the context of evolving social and political influences.

For another Video Vault on artists in Rockport, click here.

Poetry from the Stacks


By Professor Stockton Axson

The following poem was published in the Cape Ann Shore, vol. XXV, no. 7, August 21, 1920. The Cape Ann Shore was a summer magazine published from the 1890s through the first quarter of the 20th century. Mary Rhinelander McCarl references the poem in her lecture above titled The Beginnings of the Art Colonies of Cape Ann, 1875-1923.”

Pop Fitz Clink


What is it sickens with disgust the Gloucester sailorman?

It isn't fightin' wind and fog, nor driftin' in a calm;

It isn't toiling off the Banks where fishin's on the bum;

It isn't even wrestlin' with the facts of Gloucester rum.

It's these everlastin' artists a settin' all around,

A paintin' everything we do from the topmast to the ground.


‘Fore we get to Ten Pound Island they're a roostin' on the shore,

And they follow us about the port till we put to sea once more.

If we only drop an anchor or lower away a sail

They're a'slappin' paint on canvas and a'workin' like a gale.

We can't lay hold upon a rope but,—Lord A 'mighty's sake!

They're a 'flockin' all about us like flies around a cake.


They take us in our overalls, so shapeless and so slack,

You can hardly tell by lookin' if we're goin' or comin' back;

Our own wives and our sweethearts fail to find us pretty then,

But it seems to suit these artists,—the women and the men,

For they puts us into picters and they think it's just immense

They call it "picteresque," I b'lieve, but it certain isn't sense.


They're paintin' in the sunshine, they're paintin' in the fog,

They're paintin' when it's rainin' hard enough to drown a dog;

They paint when it is high tide, and then the tide goes down

And leaves the harbor mostly slime, all green and greasy brown,—

So nasty that you'd think it would disgust a harbor rat, —

But Gosh! would you believe it? They're even painted that!


And what they keep a'doin it for is more than I can tell,

For the things when they're finished they certain look like,—well

They look like nothin' known upon the land or on the deep,—

It seems a waste of time when likely chromos are so cheap.

But I s'pose their kinsfolks likes to have them Pottering

It keeps 'em out of mischief, and from doing some wuss thing.