Set in the picturesque town of Gloucester, Massachusetts, John Stacey’s landscape looks from the peninsula of Rocky Neck across Smith’s Cove toward residential East Gloucester and the low ridge known as Banner Hill. Under a fair-weather sky, the clustered wood-frame houses are bright patches of color under the full sun of midday, with the prominent white wall of one structure near the composition’s center balanced by notes of red on either side. Stacey chose a moment of low tide: the exposed piers of a dock at left and weedy mud interrupting the glassy surface of the water at lower right impart a note of calm, yet the fresh color and lively brushwork animate the prosaic scene.
Its original title unknown, this painting is contemporary with two other Stacey paintings of Gloucester Harbor, Gloucester and Untitled (The Pier, Gloucester). While those images position the viewer close to the water, looking from Rocky Neck across the harbor, Untitled (East Gloucester from Rocky Neck) focuses instead on the quiet enclave of East Gloucester, likely the site of the summer residence Stacey shared with his wife, fellow artist Anna L. Stacey. By 1909 the two were part of a seasonal colony of painters, many of whom lived and worked in East Gloucester and on Rocky Neck itself. In picturing Gloucester, Stacey followed an established mode that combined impressionist technique and nostalgia for an idealized Old New England. Banner Hill typically provided a popular vantage point for painting the harbor; less commonly pictured, however, was Rocky Neck itself, with Banner Hill in the distance. Turning his back on Gloucester’s busy fishing harbor, Stacey here presents an image of East Gloucester as a site of settled domesticity.
Wendy Greenhouse, PhD