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inv. 14
Gloucester Harbor from Rocky Neck
View of Gloucester from Rocky Neck; View of Gloucester Harbor from Rocky Neck
Oil on canvas
34 x 45 3/4 in. (86.4 x 116.2 cm)
Signed and dated lower right: F H Lane, 1844
On view at the Cape Ann Museum


Lane painted Gloucester Harbor from Rocky Neck in 1844, just before the 1846 lithograph of Gloucester (his second) in which he drew the view of the harbor and city from Rocky Neck (see map below). Lane did three separate lithographs of Gloucester: View of the Town of Gloucester, Mass., 1836 (inv. 437), View of Gloucester, (From Rocky Neck), 1846 (inv. 92), and View of Gloucester, 1859 (inv. 446). They were all sold to townspeople by Lane himself for just a few dollars apiece. They track both the evolution of a growing Gloucester and of Lane as a lithographer: each successive print is larger, more detailed, and more skillful than the previous one.

In style and subject, this painting descends directly from Lane’s lithography work, particularly the town views. In these, he depicts panoramic vistas that have a map-like quality in their attempt to show every building and activity of a town. These views have a long tradition in printmaking, going back hundreds of years. They served as an affordable way for people to have a lasting image of where they lived and contributed to their appreciation of their town and to their sense of its identity.

The southeastern shore of Gloucester's Inner Harbor was still very rural in Lane’s day, underlined here by the sheep and the man with the rifle and dog. The harbor is full of a wide variety of boats (see interactive feature, above), and the city shines in the distance under the sunlight. Every building is accurately drawn in its exact location, a mandatory practice for a lithographer of town views whose audience usually inhabited those same buildings. The sky is layered in light and dark clouds, another lithography practice used to differentiate the layers of sky when working in black and white. The foreground is Lane’s usual dark proscenium arch, with highlights on the foreground figure who points at the city as the sheep scamper off at an angle. Their direction is continued by the vessel on the right as it heads away in the shadow.

This painting shows Lane slowly growing out of his lithographer's techniques. He has included an astonishing level of detail but without a single focal point that provides a dominant emotion. While he has captured a clear crisp light, the painting has an overall flatness and static quality much like a colored lithograph, from which it is not far removed. In the next few years Lane would learn an immense amount about how to lead a viewer into and through a painting and how to use subtle color values to create atmosphere and recession in space. 

– Sam Holdsworth


Gloucester Harbor from Rocky Neck, 1844 (inv. 14): A Visual Guide 

Sketched from high ground on Rocky Neck, Lane’s composition elevated the background above the harbor traffic, providing clear views of both with minimal overlap. The resulting image presents a sweeping view of the harbor’s community and its shipping activity from west to east.

Harbor landmarks

At far left, the grist mill - minus its vanes - of Ignatius Webber (1) rises above Fort Point and the remains of Fort Defiance (2), guard-post of Gloucester’s Inner Harbor from 1742 through the War of 1812. Just inside Fort Point was the wharf of John W. Lowe (3), a survivor from colonial times but still in use. Dominating the brick buildings on Front Street (now Main Street) is the Gloucester House (4), a hotel catering to an ever-growing clientele of summer visitors.

Parallel to Front Street was Middle Street, the setting for Gloucester’s most visible  buildings, all of them churches. Largest was the Independent Christian Church (Universalist) (5), whose steeple served as an aid to navigation in the early 1800s for fishing and coastal trading vessels  seeking anchorage. Next were the Congregationalist (7) and Unitarian (8) churches.

Above Middle Street was a parallel street whose west end was called High Street and the east end called Prospect  Street. On the High Street end was a large school house (6). Between Front and Prospect Streets (a block beyond Middle Street) was Elm Street, where the Second Universalist Church (9) was located. Much farther to the eastward, at the end of Prospect Street, was the Methodist Church (10).

Returning to the waterfront, the wharves of Frederick Low (both numbered 11) in Harbor Cove (left) and Duncan’s Point (right). Just off the end of the latter wharf is Harbor Rock (12). Duncan’s Point (13) was largely owned by Frederick Low, including the land at its summit which he sold to Lane a few years later. At this same time, a waterfront parcel on the point was owned by Parker Burnham & Brother and used for shipbuilding and vessel repairs. This site, not visible in the painting, would become Gloucester’s first marine railway (see Inv. 29).

 Vessels in port

Gloucester’s Inner Harbor – unlike its outer reaches – was shallow and difficult for berthing large vessels. This notwithstanding, Gloucester merchants played a prominent role in America’s trade with Surinam (Dutch Guiana) in the first half of the 19th century. This success led to a need for larger ships, ultimately forcing the merchants to move their ships and their warehouses to Boston (commuting to their offices by rail), ceding Gloucester Harbor to the fishing industry. This painting depicts the harbor while merchant vessels still arrived with goods from Surinam (and other countries as well). Gloucester’s fishing fleet, near the end of a long decline, is present in the form of schooners used for catching fish with hand lines. The “new” fishing methods (purse seining and dory trawling) were soon to be adopted, putting Gloucester in the forefront of the American fishing industry. 

Surveying the part of the harbor used for anchorage and known as “The Stream", we see a coasting schooner (14) used to carry bulk cargos (lumber, hay and farm produce) to and from coastal communities, including major seaports. In the foreground is a pinky (15), a small fishing schooner type derived from colonial fishing vessels  called “Chebacco boats”. The small yawl-rigged vessel (16) is a “party boat” used to take summer visitors sightseeing and fishing – a then-new industry destined for steady growth.

At center is a merchant brig (17) very likely used in the Surinam Trade and known locally as a “Surinam brig”. Astern is a hermaphrodite brig, or “half brig” (18), used in the coastal trade, but usually for longer passages when sailing farther offshore and setting square sails made for faster passages. The sloop (19) is a packet sloop, also used in the coastal trade, but well-kept and maintained, and used to carry passengers and higher-value goods between scheduled destination ports.

 Looking toward the right margin, the inner harbor narrows and is very shallow at low tide. This area, called “Head of the Harbor’, provided anchorage for fishing vessels, wharves for unloading, and land for “flake yards” where fish dried on wooden racks called “fish flakes”. Lane depicted the constraints of this area very accurately in his painting “Gloucester Harbor” (Inv. 23). For “Gloucester Harbor from Rocky Neck”, he offers only a distant and partial view of this area, and only two distant views of the fishing schooners (20) that berthed there. Both vessels are “banks schooners” which fished with hand lines from their decks at the fishing banks off Canada or on Georges Bank east of Cape Cod.

In the coming decade, not only would Lane’s painting style change, but Gloucester Harbor’s industries and vessels would change with it, as Lane’s subsequent harbor views show so well.

–Erik Ronnberg








Related Work in the Catalog

Supplementary Images

Overall infrared image of painting shows detailed underdrawing beneath the paint layer outlining bui... [more]ldings and ships. The positions of two figures in the lower left were shifted in the final composition. – Marcia Steele
Photo: J. Neubecker, Cleveland Museum of Art
© Cape Ann Museum
Infrared detail image showing precise underdrawing beneath the paint layer. – Marcia Steele
Photo: J. Neubecker, Cleveland Museum of Art
© Cape Ann Museum
Viewpoint chart showing Lane's location when making this image

Provenance (Information known to date; research ongoing.)

the Artist, Gloucester, Mass.
George O. Stacy, Gloucester, Mass.
Jane Parker Stacy, Gloucester, Mass., 1928
Cape Ann Museum, Gloucester, Mass., December 1948

Exhibition History

DeCordova Museum, Lincoln, Massachusetts, Fitz Hugh Lane: The First Major Exhibition, March 20–April 17, 1966., no. 3, View of Gloucester from Rocky Neck.
Traveled to: Colby College Art Museum, Waterville, Maine, April 30–June 6, 1966.
National Gallery of Art, Washington, District of Columbia, Paintings by Fitz Hugh Lane, May 15–September 5, 1988., no. 2, ill., p. 21.
Traveled to: Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, Mass., October 5–December 31, 1988.
Cape Ann Historical Association, Gloucester, Massachusetts, Training the Eye and Hand: Fitz Hugh Lane and Nineteenth Century American Drawing Books, September 17, 1993–January 29, 1994.

Published References

Wilmerding, John. Fitz Hugh Lane, 1804–1865: American Marine Painter. Salem, MA: The Essex Institute, 1964., p. 50.
The American Neptune, Pictorial Supplement VII: A Selection of Marine Paintings by Fitz Hugh Lane, 1804–1865. Salem, MA: The American Neptune, 1965., pl. V, no. 8. ⇒ 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. 3. ⇒ includes text
Wilmerding, John. Fitz Hugh Lane. New York: Praeger, 1971.
Hoffman, Katherine. "The Art of Fitz Hugh Lane." Essex Institute Historical Collections 119 (1983)., p. 30.
Wilmerding, John. Paintings by Fitz Hugh Lane. Washington, DC: National Gallery of Art; in association with Harry N. Abrams, 1988., no. 2, ill. in color, p. 21, Gloucester Harbor from Rocky Neck.
Training the Eye and the Hand: Fitz Hugh Lane and 19th Century Drawing Books. Gloucester, MA: Cape Ann Historical Association, 1993., fig. 24, pp. 25–26, Gloucester Harbor from Rocky Neck.
Davis, Elliot Bostwick. "American Drawing Books and Their Impact on Fitz Hugh Lane." Proceedings of the American Antiquarian Society 105, part 1 (1995)., fig. 8, p. 96. ⇒ includes text
Worley, Sharon. "Fitz Hugh Lane and the Legacy of the Codfish Aristocracy." Historical Journal of Massachusetts 32, no. 1 (Winter 2004)., p. 82. ⇒ 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., pl. 1, Gloucester Harbor from Rocky Neck.
Craig, James. Fitz H. Lane: An Artist's Voyage through Nineteenth-Century America. Charleston, SC: The History Press, 2006., fig. 46, pl. 3.
Craig, James. "Fitz Henry Lane: An Affinity for the Sea." Fine Art Connoisseur: The Premier Magazine for Important Collectors 3, Issue 4 (August 2006)., ill., p. 28, text, pp. 28, 29.
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
Barnhill, Trafton. Drawn from Nature & on Stone: the Lithographs of Fitz Henry Lane. Gloucester, MA: Cape Ann Museum, 2017., fig. 18, text, p. 32, Gloucester Harbor from Rocky Neck. ⇒ includes text
Citation: "Gloucester Harbor from Rocky Neck, 1844 (inv. 14)." Fitz Henry Lane Online. Cape Ann Museum. http://fitzhenrylaneonline.org/catalog/entry.php?id=14 (accessed May 30, 2020).
Record last updated November 8, 2017. Please note that the information on this and all pages is periodically reviewed and subject to change.
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