How Far Can You Sea?

April 21, 2020

by Ruth Greene-McNally, OMAA Curator and Collections Manager

From wherever you are standing, how far can you see? I will re-phrase the question: how far can you sea? Within OMAA’s exhibition, “The View from Narrow Cove” installation, you are never at a loss for a view of the sea and horizon.

Just as trees, mountains, the built environment, and cloud-cover can block a clear view of the horizon — dust, fog, and refracted light can hinder or aid visibility. Geometry tells us that the distance of the horizon, i.e., the farthest point the eye can see before the earth curves out beneath human view, depends on the height of the observer and various obstructions, weather-related or physical. For a 5’ 7” individual at ground level, a view of the horizon extends approximately 3 miles.

Works by James Craig Nicholl, Clarence Chatterton, and Abe Walkowitz from the OMAA collection emphasize the power of place and hint at humanity’s complex relationship with nature. Tomorrow is Earth Day, 2020 and we’re celebrating early with this grouping of paintings from the early part of the century. More on Earth Day tomorrow.

James Craig Nicholl (1847-1918)
Under Bald Head Cliff, ME
1903
Oil on canvas
13.5 x 21. 5 in.
#2018.8.1 Gift of Mr. & Mrs. Frank McMillan Wooten

Painter and printmaker, James Craig Nicholl had recently returned to the East Coast after painting views of Catalina Island near San Diego when he ventured to Ogunquit to paint Bald Head Cliff from a sea-level vantage. Nicholl would have descended a staircase and ledge rock to take this perspective from below the site of the legendary Cliff House Resort, which opened in 1872.
Nicholl studied painting under the Dutch-American painter Mauritz de Haas, concentrating on New England coastal scenes. He exhibited his work at the Art Institute of Chicago, The National Academy of Design, and The Boston Art Club.
Clarence Chatterton’s pioneering depiction of small-town America, particularly his scenes of village streets in coastal Maine, won the regard of critics and collectors of American art in the early 20th century. A student of Robert Henri, Chatterton is often associated with Rockwell Kent and his close friend Edward Hopper. A beloved professor of art at Vassar College in Poughkeepsie, New York, Chatterton rarely strayed far from New York State. Coastal Maine, where he summered in Ogunquit and on Monhegan island from 1915 to the end of his life was the only geographic location that prompted him away from the Hudson Valley.

Clarence Chatterton (1880-1973)
Perkins Cove, Ogunquit
1918
Oil on board
16 x 20 in.
# 2012.73, Gift of Todd Poole in Memory of J.T.B.

Clarence Chatterton
Summer in Ogunquit
c. 1915
Oil on canvas, 24 x 36
Gift of Owen Wells, 2018

Walkowitz is perhaps best known for his watercolor studies of Isadora Duncan and laid claim to being the first to exhibit truly Modernist paintings in the United States. After 1909, Walkowitz became a central contributing exhibitor at Alfred Stieglitz’ 291 Gallery in Manhattan, and an active participant in the debate over modern art in America. He was an outspoken proponent of experimentation in the arts, as Modernism moved from avant-garde protest against established modes to an accepted cultural shift in American arts and letters.

Abe Walkowitz (1880-1965)
Bathers on Rocks
1910
Watercolor on paper
16 x 24 in.
#2015.1, Museum Purchase

The View From Narrow Cove: Bicentennial Oqunquit is made possible through the generous support of Sparhawk Oceanfront Resort and The Maine Bicentennial Commission.

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