39. Gertrude Fiske: American Master

Gertrude Fiske, American Master

with Sisters of the Brush & Palette and Seacoast Masters Today

Softcover, 8¼ x 9, 108 pgs, color & bw, ISBN 978-0-915819-47-8. $35.00

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An important contribution to the literature on American art of the early twentieth century. T​he first study of Fiske to appear in decades, this book re-evaluates an often-overlooked but extremely talented American Impressionist painter. Using many unpublished works and new research, Carol Walker Aten and Lainey McCartney give us a fresh look at the career of this strong, independent woman. A complementary essay by Richard M. Candee examines three of Fiske’s contemporaries—Susan Ricker Knox, Margaret J. Patterson, and Anne W. Carleton—and the book concludes with a look at four female artists who pursue independent careers in the Seacoast today​.​

From the front flap

“Gertrude Fiske: American Master” is an exploration of an artistic virtuoso considered to be one of the most talented and bold painters of her time. Trained and influenced by the premier Boston Impressionists Edmund C. Tarbell, Frank W. Benson, Philip Leslie Hale, and Charles Woodbury, Fiske surpassed conventional expectations through her personal élan to create a singular body of work both daring and riveting. Fiske, a Boston native, spent her summers in Ogunquit, Maine, and often painted in Portsmouth, New Hampshire, and the greater Seacoast. Published to accompany a loan exhibition at the Portsmouth Historical Society, this catalogue delves into the breadth of her work. Containing more than sixty works of art drawn from many private and public collections, this exhibition—the first devoted to Fiske in more than thirty years—features several paintings that have never been published and others that have been recently conserved.

To help put Fiske in context, a companion exhibition, “Sisters of the Brush and Palette,” includes works of art by several of Gertrude Fiske’s contemporaries— Susan Ricker Knox, Margaret J. Patterson, and Anne W. Carleton—to lend a deeper understanding of women artists at the dawn of their independence in this country. This component examines the social and political energy around women’s rights at the turn of the twentieth century that encouraged a new autonomy and personal ambition, attitudes translated to bolder ideas and execution on canvas.

“Seacoast Masters Today” features four contemporary local artists who are making their name with the same initiative and vitality as Fiske and her peers: Amy Brnger, Donna Harkins, Sydney Bella Sparrow, and Pamela duLong Williams.

About the Authors

Lainey McCartney, Curatorial Associate at the Portsmouth Historical Society, is a graduate of Colby-Sawyer College and the University of New Hampshire, where she received a degree in French studies and cultural anthropology. She served as a docent at the Currier Museum of Art from 2008–13 and joined the curatorial staff of PHS in 2014. Recently, she has co-curated several exhibitions at Discover Portsmouth and the John Paul Jones House, including “The Odd and the Elegant” (2016–17) and “Four Centuries of Portsmouth Furniture” (2017).

Carol Walker Aten is a graduate of the University of Michigan and received her master’s degree in art history and museum studies from Boston University. She was the author of the Fiske catalogue published by Vose Galleries of Boston in 1987 and completed her master’s thesis on Gertrude Fiske in 1990. A resident of Portland, Maine, she serves on the boards of Creative Portland and Healthy Kids/Brighter Future.

Richard M. Candee is Professor Emeritus of American and New England Studies at Boston University, former director of Preservation Studies, and co-founder of Portsmouth Advocates. He is the author of several books and many essays on the region’s history and artists. The founder of Discover Portsmouth, he has curated or co-curated sixteen exhibition for the Portsmouth Historical Society and the Portsmouth Athenaeum.