John F. Stacey 1859–1941

Gloucester

, dated [19]09

Oil on canvas, 16 by 24 inches


Its original title unknown, this painting by John F. Stacey pictures the fishing harbor at Gloucester, Massachusetts, in the benign glow of early light. The dark tones of nearby dockside buildings and their broken reflections in the water are set against the muted forms of buildings on the far shoreline; these are rendered by discrete patches of varied soft pastel tints. The short, sloping pier extending over the water links middle ground and distance. A church steeple and the scattered masts of a few moored fishing vessels underscore the delicate play of vertical and horizontal forms of the wharf pilings and the clapboard surfaces of buildings in the middle distance. Anglers fishing from the landing provide the only hint of animate life in the quiet scene.

Beginning in 1905, John Stacey and his wife, fellow painter Anna L. Stacey, spent several productive summers in Gloucester, Massachusetts, a popular destination for both tourists and artists. Having recently adopted the impressionist method of painting out-of-doors, Stacey probably made this work from the vantage point of a nearby wharf. Here and in Untitled (The Pier, Gloucester), the harbor’s typical bustling activity is downplayed by distance and an intervening scrim of hazy light. The weathered dockside fishing shacks evoke a tourist’s idyllic image of the town without revealing the more prosaic realities of its fishing industry.

Wendy Greenhouse, PhD

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