This landscape painting by John F. Stacey presents a view directly across the harbor at Gloucester, Massachusetts, along the length of a narrow wooden jetty leading to a passenger ferry. The boat, its funnel smoking, seems about to depart, leaving a few figures scattered on the pier. The relatively strong color of the jetty contrasts with the muted tones of the buildings across the water, reduced in the hazy distance to a patchwork of harmonious pastels. There, the slender verticals of the masts of moored vessels are a faint reminder of Gloucester’s workaday character as a fishing port. On the pier and aboard the ferry, the brightly colored clothing of some of the figures suggests the town’s alternate character as a popular summer tourist destination.
Gloucester was also a well-established artists’ haunt. Just after the turn of the century, it attracted a group of landscape painters practicing the kind of modified impressionism that Stacey himself had recently adopted. He and his wife, figure painter Anna L. Stacey, initially visited Gloucester in 1905. John Stacey showed his first painting of a Gloucester subject in the Art Institute of Chicago’s 1906 annual exhibition for Chicago artists. The following year, the Staceys spent “an industrious summer” painting on Cape Ann. In Gloucester, “Mr. Stacey has built a ‘summer shack’ on a point overlooking the sea,” according to Chicago newspaper accounts.i The couple returned for several more summers before 1913. Among the many works Stacey painted there is Gloucester, a view of a fishing pier in the harbor, and Untitled (East Gloucester from Rocky Neck), which looks toward the near shore.
The original title of this work is unknown. In the 1909 Chicago artists’ annual show at the Art Institute Stacey exhibited a painting titled The Little Giant Landing, East Gloucester, and in the following year’s show one of his eight exhibited works was The Ferry Landing—Rockyneck. The Little Giant was a pilot boat that ferried passengers from Gloucester town across to Rocky Neck, a peninsula near East Gloucester where several artists lived. Thus, either title could designate this painting.
Wendy Greenhouse, PhD
i “Art,” Chicago Evening Post, Oct. 5, 1907; “Chicago Women Artists and Their Studios,” Chicago Tribune, Apr. 4, 1909.