loading loading
Search this catalogue
 [?]
 [?]
 [?]
 [?]

Catalog entry

inv. 10
Babson and Ellery Houses, Gloucester
View of the Babson and Ellery Houses, Gloucester
1863
Oil on canvas
22 x 36 in. (55.9 x 91.4 cm)
Signed and dated lower right: F H. Lane 1863
On view at the Cape Ann Museum

Commentary

Both this painting and the related work The Babson Meadows at Riverdale, 1863 (inv. 11) show the house and property of the Babson family in the Town Parish area of Gloucester. Though both houses are still standing here on Washington Street, they are next to an area of countryside that has become a large traffic rotary (Grant Circle). The paintings were companions (along with a third, believed to be lost) and belonged to the Babsons, a prominent Gloucester family. 

The notes on the drawings indicate that these two works were painted in 1863 for the Babson sisters before their move west to California, and served as a remembrance of their home. The scene is a seemingly straightforward account of the Babson house on the right, lit up by the late afternoon sun, and the Ellery house, partially hidden by trees with a barn across the road. The broad town landing comes down to the water where a gundalow, loaded with late summer marsh hay, is being poled in to unload.

Babson and Ellery Houses, Gloucester is a masterpiece of serenity and order. The Babson house is a perfect example of a gambrel-roofed New England house: simple, dignified, and solid. The eye is led up to the house by the diagonal of the board fence enclosing the garden, all bathed in the pink light of a late summer evening. Moving to the left, the gable end of the Ellery house sticks up out of the trees and across the road is the barn in shadow, a sliver of light reflecting off its west side.

Lane has integrated the horizontal composition by stitching it together with the stone walls (each stone obsessively drawn and shaded) that organize the spaces and lead the eye along the roads and into the distance. The walls define rectilinear areas that echo the geometry of the buildings and their enclosures, giving order to what could have otherwise been a bland expanse.

The foreground is another example of Lane’s remarkable ability to make a mass of indiscriminate plants and grasses into a delicate botanical tapestry. There is a vaporous pink atmosphere in the sky reflected on the roads, and on every lit surface, that is in perfect contrast to the diversity of greens across the landscape.

This can be called one of Lane’s “perfect” paintings. Every element is locked together in harmony. The tones of sky and earth relate perfectly, and the eye is effortlessly led around a complete and perfect world. There is a great feeling of nostalgia to this work. One can imagine Lane consciously evoking that sentiment in this remembrance for the departing Babson sisters. Lane himself was nearing the end of his life, and the restrained but obvious emotion in this painting has a clear relationship with his elegiac Brace’s Rock series, the last paintings he did before his death in 1865.

– Sam Holdsworth

Related Work in the Catalog

Supplementary Images

Infrared image shows Lane's carefully rendered buildings, including windows and trees. The grid in t... [more]he center of the painting shows how he transferred the preparatory drawing to the painting. Dark patches are areas of retouching by a later conservator. – Marcia Steele
Photo: J. Neubecker, Cleveland Museum of Art
© Cape Ann Museum
Infrared detail shows the carefully measured grid at center with numbers at the top of the vertical ... [more]lines corresponding to those found in the preparatory drawing. – Marcia Steele
Photo: J. Neubecker, Cleveland Museum of Art
© Cape Ann Museum
Map showing Lane's viewpoint.
Photo: © Cape Ann Museum Library & Archive

Provenance (Information known to date; research ongoing.)

the Artist, Gloucester, Mass.
Emma Rogers Babson (Mrs. William Friend) and Maria Babson, Gloucester, Mass.
Roger W. Babson, Gloucester, Mass.
Cape Ann Museum, Gloucester, Mass., 1937

Exhibition History

DeCordova Museum, Lincoln, Massachusetts, Fitz Hugh Lane: The First Major Exhibition, March 20–April 17, 1966., no. 56.
Traveled to: Colby College Art Museum, Waterville, Maine, April 30–June 6, 1966.
National Gallery of Art, Washington, District of Columbia, American Light: The Luminist Movement, 1850–1875, February 10–June 15, 1980.
National Gallery of Art, Washington, District of Columbia, Paintings by Fitz Hugh Lane, May 15–September 5, 1988., no. 20, ill., p.16, as Babson and Ellery Houses, Gloucester.
Traveled to: Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, Mass., October 5–December 31, 1988.

Published References

Wilmerding, John. Fitz Hugh Lane, 1804–1865: American Marine Painter. Salem, MA: The Essex Institute, 1964., p. 51.
The American Neptune, Pictorial Supplement VII: A Selection of Marine Paintings by Fitz Hugh Lane, 1804–1865. Salem, MA: The American Neptune, 1965., plate XXX, no. 117, as View of the Babson and Ellery Houses, Gloucester. ⇒ includes text
Wilmerding, John. Fitz Hugh Lane: The First Major Exhibition. Lincoln, MA: De Cordova Museum; in association with Colby College Art Museum, 1966., no. 56, as View of the Babson and Ellery Houses, Gloucester. ⇒ includes text
Wilmerding, John. Fitz Hugh Lane. New York: Praeger, 1971.
Wilmerding, John, ed. American Light: The Luminist Movement, 1850–1875. Washington, DC: National Gallery of Art, 1980., ill., fig. 37, pp. 45–46, text, pp. 111, 116, 261.
Wilmerding, John. Paintings by Fitz Hugh Lane. Washington, DC: National Gallery of Art; in association with Harry N. Abrams, 1988., ill. in color p. 16, as Babson and Ellery Houses, Gloucester.
Moses, Michael A. "Mary B. Mellen and Fitz Hugh Lane." Antiques Magazine Vol. CXL, No. 5 (November 1991)., p. 834. ⇒ includes text
Training the Eye and the Hand: Fitz Hugh Lane and 19th Century Drawing Books. Gloucester, MA: Cape Ann Historical Association, 1993., p. 23, as Babson and Ellery Houses, Gloucester.
Worley, Sharon. "Fitz Hugh Lane and the Legacy of the Codfish Aristocracy." Historical Journal of Massachusetts 32, no. 1 (Winter 2004)., p. 73. ⇒ includes text
Wilmerding, John. Fitz Henry Lane. Gloucester, MA: Cape Ann Historical Association, 2005. Reprint of Fitz Hugh Lane, by John Wilmerding. New York: Praeger, 1971. Includes new information regarding the artist's name., ill. 98.
Craig, James. Fitz H. Lane: An Artist's Voyage through Nineteenth-Century America. Charleston, SC: The History Press, 2006., pl. 23.
Berry, Nancy E. "Digital Arts: The Cape Ann Museum moves 19th-century artist F.H. Lane online and into the 21st century." Northshore Magazine (May/June 2016). ⇒ includes text
Swift, Matthew. "Miraculous Detail: The Legacy of Fitz Henry Lane." Art New England (July/August 2016)., as Babson and Ellery Houses, Gloucester. ⇒ includes text
Citation: "Babson and Ellery Houses, Gloucester, 1863 (inv. 10)." Fitz Henry Lane Online. Cape Ann Museum. http://fitzhenrylaneonline.org/catalog/entry.php?id=10 (accessed April 30, 2017).
Record last updated March 20, 2017. Please note that the information on this and all pages is periodically reviewed and subject to change.
Please share your knowledge with us: click here to leave feedback.