Discover Portsmouth Exhibits, Programs & Events

FREE Family Program: Paint and Print with Nature

Family Program

Sunday, Sept. 23 9:30am-12pm
Discover Portsmouth.

Use natural objects to create your very own painting. Pine cones, leaves and other objects found in nature can create beautiful patterns and prints. Each child will take home their own masterpiece. This is best for ages 3.5 and older. Every child must be accompanied by an adult. Stop by anytime between 9:30am-12:pm

For more information, call Discover Portsmouth at: (603) 436-8433.

Rose Labrie, Primitive Artist

Family Skate by Rose Labrie

Family Skate, by Rose Labrie

Discover Portsmouth,
Friday, October 19 – Sunday, December 23.
Curated by: Richard M. Candee

Rose Labrie (1916-1986) was a modern “primitive” painter who lived and worked in the Portsmouth area and achieved some notoriety for her nostalgic artwork and her outreach supporting children’s art in the seacoast. This exhibition, drawn from many private and public collections as well as from her descendants, is the first retrospective look at her career that was a significant part of popular culture in the mid twentieth century.

Rose Labrie, “Primitive” Painter

Ranger. Rose LaBrieRose Cushing was born in Dorchester, Massachusetts, on August 31, 1916, of an Irish immigrant father and a mother from Nova Scotia. Her two careers as writer and an artist had creative roots in the deadly influenza pandemic of 1918. That disease, which weakened her brother Connie’s legs and left Rose anemic, led the family to relocate to West Hartford, Vermont.

As Rose later recalled: “Try to see all this as a bewildered Boston tot saw it suddenly. . . big, blue skies, houses a mile apart, tall fields of waving grass, calves and colts as familiar chums. Fresh eyes, fresh sights, bright, bold impressions on the mind. Growing up in the mountains of Vermont in an old gambrel farmhouse . . . and running free as the wind on 240 acres of pastures, woodlands, and pine forests had every influence on my becoming a primitive painter half a century later. . . The winters with deep snows and frosty early morning sleigh rides to the little white two-room schoolhouse three miles down in the valley of West Hartford. . . were all stored in theback of my mind as I grew up.”

During the Great Depression the family moved to Concord, New Hampshire, where Rose attended Concord High School. “I signed up for a drawing course, as I loved art. Unfortunately, I couldn’t seem to follow instructions. . . I wasn’t surprised when I was asked to change to a course in music appreciation. Thus ended art for me for thirty-five years.”

In 1939, she married electrician Alfred A. Labrie; the couple and their children relocated to Kittery, Maine, when Fred found work at the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard during WW II. Soon Rose began classes at UNH and with the well-known writer of Cape Neddick, Maine, Mrs. Doris Ricker Marston. Rose later told Marston “if it had not been for the amateur painting which she prepared for the cover of her Nubble Light booklet, with its resulting publicity, she could not have established a reputation which led her into the primitive art field.”

Starting to paint in the 1950s, Labrie first focused on past and present life along the Seacoast. She eventually earned a national reputation for her nostalgic ‘memory paintings’ of growing up in rural New England. She was represented by a Madison Avenue gallery in New York after 1977 and exhibited in Florida galleries and museums each winter. Many paintings were done on private commission and for publication, but she tried to insure each of her children had examples of her art. She attracted a biographer whose work, unfortunately, ended with her sudden death in 1986.

Toward the end of her life, two art historians summarized her career: “Rose Labrie is the quintessential memory painter. . . . She had always been interested in art, but was transferred out of an art class for refusing to follow the rules of academic art. She remains a true radical. The favored elements of her paintings—such as a horse, child, or tree–tower over the rest of the composition, violating all the rules of proportion; colors glow and clash with no regard to the rules of nature. She knows only one rule—her immediate feelings about the subject matter and how she feels it should be rendered.” [From Jay Johnson and William C. Ketchum, Jr.American Folk Art of the Twentieth Century (New York: Rizzoli, 1983).] Although Labrie was not fond of the comparison, her work led some people to regard her as the “Grandma Moses of New Hampshire.”

Containing rarely seen paintings, photographs, and printed ephemera drawn from public and private collections, including many Labrie family members, this exhibition places the life and work of this New Hampshire artist into the context of her time and place, and recognizes her significant role in the popular “primitive” art movement that resonated with the public during the last half of the twentieth century.

Thanks to our generous donors

The Labrie Family
Anne S. Howells Charitable Trust
R. M. Davis
Bigelow & Company
DTC Lawyers
Piscataqua Savings Bank


About the exhibition curator, Richard M. Candee

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 exhibitions for the Portsmouth Historical Society and the Portsmouth Athenaeum.

Thanks to our generous sponsors


Piscataqua Savings Bank

28th Annual Gingerbread House Contest Call for Entries

Entries must be registered no later than Saturday, November 17, 2018.

2016 Adult Winner, Gingerbread Contest

Portsmouth Historical Society is pleased to announce another year of a sweet local tradition. Gather your family, friends and/or co-workers together and craft your own beautiful creation! All levels welcome. Homemade gingerbread creations will be on display daily for the public throughout December at Discover Portsmouth.

Vintage Christmas in Portsmouth Kickoff

Friday, November 30, 2018, 5-8pm
The exhibition will open Friday, November 30, from 5-8pm, and run through December 22, from 9:30-5 pm daily. The exhibition will also be open until 8pm on Saturday, December 1 and Friday, December 7.

Take a house home!

Some of our most beautiful entries will be raffled off and available to the winners to take home for the holidays. Proceeds from the raffle will benefit Portsmouth Historical Society.

Please read the Contest Rules before you register.



The 28th Annual Gingerbread House Contest is a feature of Vintage Christmas in Portsmouth, the city-wide, month-long celebration anchored by The Music Hall and Strawbery Banke Museum.

Created by local businesses, artists, families and kids, the gingerbread houses will be nestled into a winter wonderland in the first floor gallery surrounded by large format photographs: David J. Murray’s images of Vintage Christmas in Portsmouth and photographs of trains in New Hampshire winters by Andy Dolph. The exhibition is free and open to the public.

Judges’ winning selections will be announced at the November 30 Kickoff Party. Visitors to the exhibit can vote for the People’s Choice Awards in four categories: “Best in Show,” “Most Creative Building Materials,” “Most Attention to Detail,” and “Most Whimsical.”

Come see these magical creations and find holiday gifts in the Museum Shop! According to Robin Albert, Welcome Center Coordinator, who is overseeing the exhibit, “We are gearing up for what has become a wonderful tradition. Both past participants and newcomers are encouraged to enter, so get your family and friends and co-workers together and craft your own beautiful creation!”

Free Family Programs

Dec. 9 – Tin punching winter decoration (ornament)
Dec. 16 Snowflakes and Gingerbread Man Decorating

Thank you to our event sponsors

Devine Millimet    

Portsmouth Historical Society Young Writers Contest

Calling all young writers eager to put words to paper!

Portsmouth Historical Society invites young writers Grades 3 to 12 to participate in our first ever Young Writers Contest. To participate, young writers come to Discover Portsmouth to view the art of Gertrude Fiske, an early twentieth-century painter and etcher who was admired for excellence at her craft.

Children at Fiske Exhibition Discover Portsmouth 2018 Children at Fiske Exhibition Discover Portsmouth 2018 Children at Fiske Exhibition Discover Portsmouth 2018

Here’s how it works:

[Read more…]

Gertrude Fiske: American Master


With Companion Exhibitions
Seacoast Masters Today
Sisters of the Brush and Palette

Discover Portsmouth 2018
Friday, April 6 – Sunday, September 30, 2018
Curated by Lainey McCartney

Gertrude Fiske (1879-1961), a Weston, Massachusetts, native who painted in Portsmouth, is an American Master. She was a favored student and then the peer of several American Impressionists, including Edmund C. Tarbell, Frank Benson, Philip Hale, and Charles Woodbury. Critics and peers alike identified her genius as residing in how she ‘sees,’ and this gift of ‘seeing’ made her more independent than many. This independence set her apart.

Select Friday Lunchtime Guided Gallery Tours

For ten select Fridays in 2018, visitors to Discover Portsmouth are invited to a special gallery tour. Join our exhibition curator or curator trained guides for an in-depth look at the remarkable art of Gertrude Fiske. (click here for dates)

Private tours are also available upon request for a fee. Please call (603) 436-8433 for more information.
[Read more…]

John Paul Jones House 2018 Exhibition

Overlooked and Undervalued: Three Hundred Years of Women’s Art from the Seacoast

Throughout history, women’s art (and contributions by women in all fields) has often been “overlooked and undervalued,” regarded as inferior to art created by men or relegated to the world of decorative household crafts. Nevertheless, working within these confines, and often coping with the demands of child-bearing and child-rearing, women have created important works of art, broadly conceived, often notable for great technical skill and inventive approaches.

John Paul Jones House     John Paul Jones House Women     John Paul Jones House Women
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2018 Walking Tours of Historic Portsmouth NH

Walking tour Sandy WalentMay Through October

“Portsmouth and its pleasures are smaller scale. They’re also best approached on foot.” –New York Times.

Portsmouth is the hub of the New Hampshire Seacoast. Its downtown streets are reminiscent of a small English market village. Portsmouth’s unique, historical character can be fully captured on foot. If you’re visiting Portsmouth for a meal, an afternoon or a weekend consider taking a Discover Portsmouth walking tour! [Read more…]

How Would You Celebrate Portsmouth400?

Portsmouth NH Masons 1923 Arch

Middle Street arch in 1923 during 300th anniversary celebration. (Photo courtesy Portsmouth Athenaeum Collection)

JULY 2018

Portsmouth400 held two public input sessions at Portsmouth Public Library in June 2018. Attendance was great and we received hundreds of ideas. If you were unable to attend but have some ideas, Please “Share Your Thoughts” at the link below. The ideas we receive through August 2018 will be combined to formulate a strategic plan. We will share the results of the June 2018 public input sessions on this webpage and enews in September.

Additional public input and informational sessions will be scheduled for the fall. We value everyone’s ideas and look forward to hearing from you!

For more information, email:

We value your input! Please share what you’d like to see included!

Share Your Thoughts
[Read more…]

Sketching in the Gallery – Free for All Ages

Sketching at Discover Portsmouth 2017
For sixteen select Saturday mornings in 2018, artists young and old are invited to grab a pencil and paper and sketch in our beautiful Balcony Gallery at Discover Portsmouth. Use the inspiration of the four local artists, Amy Brnger, Donna Harkins, Sydney Bella Sparrow, and Pamela duLong Williams, all on display in “Seacoast Masters Today,” to create your own masterpiece. On select Saturdays, local artists will be in the gallery to work with you and provide insight into the artwork.

Sketching in the Gallery Dates:

Saturday, April 14, 2018, 10am-12pm
Saturday, April 28, 2018, 10am-12pm
Saturday, May 12, 2018, 10am-12pm
Saturday, May 26, 2018, 10am-12pm
Saturday, June 9, 2018, 10am-12pm
Saturday, June 23, 2018, 10am-12pm
Saturday, July 7, 2018, 10am-12pm
Saturday, July 21, 2018, 10am-12pm
Saturday, August 4, 2018, 10am-12pm
Saturday, August 18, 2018, 10am-12pm
Saturday, September 1, 2018, 10am-12pm
Saturday, September 15, 2018, 10am-12pm
Saturday, October 20, 2018, 10am-12pm
Saturday, November 17, 2018, 10am-12pm
Saturday, December 15, 2018, 10am-12pm

Four Seacoast Women Featured in New Art Exhibition

Seacoast Masters Today

Seacoast Masters Today

April 6-September 30, 2018
Member’s Opening Gala: Thursday, April 5, 2018
Art ‘Round Town, Friday, April 6
at Discover Portsmouth

In a companion exhibition to Gertrude Fiske: American Master, along with a second companion exhibition, “Sisters of the Brush and Palette,” four Seacoast women artists are highlighted. They are making their name today with the same drive and passion as Fiske and her peers. They are: Amy Brnger, Donna Harkins, Sydney Bella Sparrow, and Pamela duLong Williams. [Read more…]