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Catalog entry

inv. 295
Sunrise on the Maine Coast, Mount Desert Island
Sunrise on the Maine Coast; Sunrise, Mount Desert
Oil on canvas
17 x 27 in. (43.2 x 68.6 cm)
Signed and dated lower center: F.H. Lane, 1856
Private collection, on loan at the Farnsworth Museum

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Subject Types:   Self-Portrait »
New England Locales:   Maine »

Historical Materials
Below is historical information related to the Lane work above. To see complete information on a subject on the Historical Materials page, click on the subject name (in bold and underlined).

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Mount Desert was in the Frenchman's Bay Customs District, and in 1850 the district ranked 4th, at 11.2%, among Maine's 13 customs districts, for its investment in the cod fisheries. The thick, old-growth forest provided ample opportunity for sawmills and the export of pine lumber and timber, as well as shipbuilding, which went hand-in-hand with fishing vessels for the cod fisheries.The coasters of the island found ample freight in the shipment of lumber from the sawmills of the Union River at Ellsworth. The rugged interior of the island limited settlements to the coastal fringe, creating a number of independent, isolated communities. Mount Desert's small fishing and farming communities, in the early 1850s, were set like small diamonds in an incredible crown of natural beauty. These small, isolated villages, clinging to a jagged coastline which stood resolute against the breaking sea, would have reminded artists like Lane of an America untouched by the progress of time. This was New England as it had once been, and there were few places in coastal New England where this claim could still be made.

Mount Desert, as it is colloquially known, has been known by many names throughout its history. The Etchemin called it Pem-etn-ic, "a range of mountains," as seen from the sea, "where the hills rise in a long saw-toothed range," Champlain called the island, notable for its granite mountains, of which one rises 1530 feet , "Isle des Monts Deserts," "barren mountains Island," and Sieur de la Mothe de Cadillac, who was granted a large tract at the head of Frenchman Bay in 1687, called Douaquet. Cadillac is one of a number of Frenchman whose presence in history is denoted by Frenchman's Bay.

At the beginning of recorded history Asticou was an Etchemin Sakom who lived seasonally on Mount Desert with his band. His larger homeland, Ketakamigwa, "the big land on the seacoast," was "an ecologically diverse coastal woodland environment, combining a saltwater archipelago with a 1000 mi.² freshwater hinterland broken by hills, swamps, lakes and ponds, and drained by a few major rivers in numerous smaller streams." The highly mobile Wabenaki families, ethnically identified as Etchemins, inhabited Penobscot Bay, making full use of the abundance of natural resources, including the building of a fish weir, K'chi-siti-mokan'gan, "The Great Fish Weir," between Little and Big Deer Isle, from which Eggemoggin Reach is derived), and shaping the natural environment to suit their needs.

Asticou, or members of his band, were on hand to greet Champlain in 1604, and he was at Manchester Point in 1613 when Father Baird and three Jesuit priests dropped anchor on their way to establish a Catholic mission on the Penobscot River. Asticou invited them to stay, the invitation was accepted, and the mission of St. Sauveur at Fernald Point began to be built. The work had barely begun when the mission was destroyed by Capt. Samuel Argall, an English privateer from Jamestown.

Champlain named Mount Desert but left its sentinel rock, 26 miles off shore, unidentified. The island was given the name of Mount Desert Dry Rock in the 18th century, and shortened somewhat after this. The island served as a navigational aid, not a hazard, for coastal seamen. The US government purchased this pile of rocks from the State of Maine in 1829, there surely must have been a few laughs over this transaction, and the government authorized $5000 to build a light station, which began operation in 1830.

– Mark Honey


Conkling, Philip W, "Islands in Time," A Natural and Cultural History of the Islands of the Gulf of Maine, Island Institute, Rockland, and Downeast Books, Camden.

Eckstorm, Fannie Hardy, "Indian Place-Names of the Penobscot Valley and the Maine Coast," University of Maine Studies, 2nd Series, #55, November 1941, reprinted 1960 by the University of Maine Press.  Frank G Speck's "Penobscot Man," University of Pennsylvania Press, 1940.

Duncan, Roger F, "Coastal Maine, A Maritime History," WW Norton & Company, New York, 1992.

 Prins, Harald E L, and McBride, Bunny, "Asticou's Island Domain: Wabenaki Peoples at Mount Desert Island," 1500-2000, Acadia National Park, Ethnographic Overview and Assessment, Volume 1, repaired under cooperative agreement with The Abbe Museum, Bar Harbor, Maine, Northeast Regional Ethnography Program, National Park Service, Boston, Massachusetts, September, 2007.

Rowe, William Hutchinson, "The Maritime History of Maine," Harpswell Press, 1996.




1850 Gloucester Daily Telegraph 9.11.1850
Stevens, Joseph Jr.
Gloucester Daily Telegraph
Article by Joseph L. Stevens

"The beauties of this place [Maine] are well known and appreciated among artists. We heard of Bonfield and Williams who had reluctantly left but a short time before. Fishe had spent several weeks there. Champney and Kensett were then in  another part of the island, and we have reason to believe that Church and some  others were in the immediate vicinity–Lane who was with us, made good additions  to his portfolio."

1859 Gloucester Telegraph 2.9.1859
Gloucester Telegraph p. 2, col. 3
Boston Public Library
Accession # G587

"PICTURES. – Two of Lane's finest paintings are on exhibition at the Marine Insurance Reading Room. One is a most spirited representation of a gale on the sea coast. Huge rollers come rumbling towards the rocky foreground where the spray dashes high and the receding wave is thrown up sharp and wedgelike by the great crested breaker under which it is speedily overwhelmed. In the middle distance a bald headland receives the sun's rays which slant through the mist from an opening in the heavy clouds. A close reefed ship leaps proudly over the waves and safely weathers the dangerous point beyond.

The companion-piece is a bay scene in which the setting sun throws a flood of golden light over the placid water. Vessels of different kinds, with sails in light and shadow, enliven the picture. A homely old sloop getting underweigh well sets off the most prominent object - a handsome ship under full canvass, slowly gliding over the ground-swell with a light breeze afloat, while there is hardly enough below to make a cat's paw.

These pictures were painted for the spring exhibition of the National Academy at New York, whither they will go unless stopped by some appreciative purchaser.

In Lane's studio are several gems of art. - Wind against Tide on Georges, a stirring pure marine, and Recollections of Mount Desert, an exquisite bit of landscape, evince a versatility of pencil which he is not generally known to possess.

The demand for a View of Gloucester worth having (as that poor caricature of Tidd's is not) has induced Lane to supply another, which is the third and largest of his series. It is taken from Rocky Neck, like its predecessor. Of course all the modern improvements visible from that point of view are represented with the artist's usual accuracy of drawing. To the first 300 subscribers the print will be offered at the low price of $2.25 per copy. The original painting from which it is lithographed, and several other of his pictures, will be distributed by lot among those who choose to take their copies at $2.75 – a price which the print alone will command before the entire edition is exhausted."

Image: Boston Public Library
CHART G, Penobscot Bay to Machias (detail of Southwest Harbor)
George W. Eldridge
Chart G
Charles G. Hutchinson, Publisher
Private Collection

George W. Eldridge was a Boston-based publisher of charts, pilot books, and tide tables for yachtsmen cruising in the New York–New England region. Detail of the Mount Desert portion of a much larger chart.

Also filed under: Maps »   //  Northeast Harbor »   //  Somes Sound »

Chart showing route of Lane's 1852 cruise from Castine to Bar Harbor
Erik Ronnberg/US Coast Survey chart
c. 1875
U.S. Coast Survey

Chart with key showing the route of an excursion on the sloop "Superior" out of Castine made by William H. Witherle, Lane, Stevens and friends during which Lane made several sketches of Mt. Desert scenery. The trip was chronicled by Witherle in his diary of 1852.

Image: Erik Ronnberg
Entrance to Southwest Harbor
"U.S. Coast Pilot, Atlantic Coast, Parts I–II." First edition. Published by Washington GPO, 1891
Folded plate between pp. 62 and 63
photo (historical)
Mt. Desert Rock
N. L. Stebbins

From The Illustrated Coast Pilot with sailing directions. The Coast of New England from New York to Eastport, Maine including Bays and Harbors, published by N. L. Stebbins, Boston, Mass.

view ]
The Story of Mount Desert Island
Samuel Eliot Morison
Boston: Little Brown and Co.
pp. 75-76

Morison lists the original names of mountains and other features on Mount Desert and the corresponding new names designated as official when Acadia National Park was created.

Topographical Map of Hancock County Maine
H. F. Walling
Wilson Museum, Castine, Maine.
Library of Congress Catalog Number 2011588006

1860 map, including census of towns. 

Image: Library of Congress

Also filed under: Castine »   //  Maps »   //  Penobscot Bay »

Topographical Map of Hancock County Maine under the direction of H.F. Walling 1860 (Mount Desert or Somesville Business Directory detail)
H. F. Walling
Wilson Museum, Castine, Maine
view ]
William Witherle Diary August 16–21, 1852
William Witherle
Personal diary
Wilson Museum, Castine, Maine (A00060-1a-1h)

Description of an excursion taken by Joseph Stevens, Jr., Lane, Witherle, Samuel Adams, Jr., and George Tilden around the islands of Maine near Mt. Desert. The group hired the Sloop "Superior" which was owned by Pilot Getchell. In his diary, Witherle mentions multiple times that "Lane took a sketch" especially when the water was calm. Lane often stayed on board the boat, while the others went ashore.


Excerpts of the diary include:

August 16: "Lane has a knack for frying fish."

August 17: "leaving Lane to take a sketch, we took a climb."

August 19: "went to ascend one of the highest mountains. 3/4 the way up we had to wait – once in a while for Lane who with his crutches could not keep up with us – but got along faster than we thought possible . . .Lane got up about an hour after the rest of us."

The entire text is transcribed in an account published by the Wilson Museum.

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Sloops are one-masted sailing vessels which, in American examples, set fore-and-aft sails but usually no square sails. Thus, staysails, or jibs, are set from the fore stay(s) and a quadrilateral mainsail is set from the mast and spread by a gaff and a boom. The larger sloops would often set a triangular topsail over the main sail. (1)

The sloops depicted by Lane were used in various coastal trades, each with its own requirements, which dictated the sizes and details of their hulls and rigs. Most elegant were the packet sloops, which transported passengers, mail, and higher value goods between specific ports on regular schedules. They usually measured between sixty and seventy-five feet on deck, as dictated by anticipated shipping volume. Finely finished, they usually had stern galleries—a row of windows across the transom with ornamental moldings—and varied color schemes. Examples of packet sloops are in Gloucester Harbor from Rocky Neck, 1844 (inv. 14) (center, middle ground) and Study of Ships, 1851 (inv. 141) (foreground), both of which probably made trips between Gloucester and Boston, or Gloucester and Newburyport. (2)

Another specialized sloop of similar size was the stone sloop, used to ship granite blocks from stone-loading piers around Cape Ann to other ports. They were similar in rig to packet sloops, but of heavier construction with greater hold capacity and absence of decoration. Their stout appearance was augmented by simple color schemes, or even tarred topsides, reflecting the wear and strain imposed by their heavy cargos. Lane depicted these vessels in his painting of Fresh Water Cove from Dolliver's Neck, Gloucester, Early 1850s (inv. 45), with a sloop (at left) preparing to load at wharf-side, and another (at right) sailing out with a cargo. (3)

Sloops of the more work-a-day sort are the most commonly seen examples in Lane’s paintings, most of them appearing in his views of Boston Harbor. Usually deep-loaded and looking weather-worn, they contrast sharply with the packet- and clipper ships which dominate the scene. Sloops of this type are rarely seen in Lane’s paintings of Gloucester Harbor and the Maine coast, although they were certainly needed for short-distance transportation (see Bear Island, Northeast Harbor, 1855 (inv. 24), View of Camden Mountains from Penobscot Bay, c.1852 (inv. 207), Sunrise on the Maine Coast, Mount Desert Island, 1856 (inv. 295)). For coastal Maine, lack of railroads for heavier freight and greater distances between ports made the use of schooners with larger carrying capacity a greater necessity. (4)

In Lane’s views of New York Harbor, a regional sloop variant, the Hudson River Sloop, appears in New York Harbor, c.1855 (inv. 46) (bow view, left) and A Calm Sea, c.1860 (inv. 6) (stern view, right). This type had become prominent in the Hudson River packet trade between New York City, Albany, and beyond to points north and west as far as the eastern terminus of the Erie Canal.  Large vessels for their rigs, they were well-finished and well-kept, reflecting pride of ownership and rivalry among their owners and crews. (5)

– Erik Ronnberg


1. A Naval Encyclopaedia (Philadelphia: L.R. Hamersly & Co., 1884. Reprint: Detroit, MI: Gale Research Company, 1971), 59.  See first definition of "sloop" and definition of "sloop-rigged."

2. Robert Greenhalgh Albion, William A. Baker, and Benjamin Woods Labaree, New England and the Sea (Mystic, CT: Mystic Seaport Museum, 1972; reprinted in 1994), 127–28.

3. Howard I. Chapelle, The History of American Sailing Ships (New York: W.W. Norton & Co., 1935), 300–02.

4. Ibid., 300.

5. Ibid., 298–300.

Engraving in R. H. Dana, The Seaman's Friend, 13th ed. (Thomas Groom & Co. Publisher, 1873)

A sloop has one mast, fore-and-aft rigged.

Bermudian sloop
A Naval Encyclopaedia:
Dictionary of nautical words and phrases
Special Articles on Naval Art and Science
Philadelphia: L.R. Hamersly & Co.

'Mudian, "Mugian, or Bermudian. A boat special to the Bermuda islands, usually decked, with the exception of a hatch; from 2 to 20 tons burden; it is short, of good beam, and great draft of water abaft, the stem and keel forming a curved line. It carries an immense quantity of ballast. Besides a long main- and short jib-boom, it has a long, taperking, raking mast, stepped just over the forefoot, generally unsupported by shrouds or stays; on it a jib-headed mainsail is hoisted to a height of twice, and sometimes three times, the length of the keel. This sail is triangular, stretched at its foot by a long boom. The only other sail is a small foresail or jib. They claim to be the fastest craft in the world for working to windward in smooth water, it being recorded of one that she made five miles dead to windward in the hour during a race; and though they may be laid over until they fill with water, they will not capsize.

Bermudian sloop in St. Georges Harbor, Bermuda
Edward James
c. 1864
St. George's Historical Society
Detail of painting of St. George's Harbour, Bermuda, during US Civil War, with a Confederate blockade runner anchored in the foreground.

Also filed under: Puerto Rico »

Scale model of stone sloop "Albert Baldwin"
William Niemi
Wood, metal, cordage, cloth, paint.
Scale: ¼ in. = 1ft. (1:48)
Cape Ann Museum. Gift of Roland and Martta Blanchet (1997.17.3)

Although built in 1890 and larger than the stone sloops of Lane’s time, the "Albert Baldwin’s" hull form, rig, and loading boom are very similar to those of the 1840s and 1850s.

Silhouettes of vessel types
Charles G. Davis
Book illustrations from "Shipping and Craft in Silhouette" by Charles G. Davis, Salem, Mass. Marine Research Society, 1929. Selected images
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There are only two known portraits of Lane, although the figures in Sunrise on the Maine Coast, Mount Desert Island, 1856 (inv. 295) and New England Inlet with Self-Portrait, 1848 (inv. 77) have long been believed to be self-portraits.

Portrait of F. H. Lane
Robert Cooke
American Antiquarian Society, Worcester, Mass.

Portrait of Lane at age 31, as inscribed on reverse: "This is a portrait of F. H. Lane, Drawn with a lead-pencil from life in 1835."

Image: American Antiquarian Society

Also filed under: Cooke, Robert »

photo (historical)
Portrait of Fitz Henry Lane in old age
J. W. Black Studio, Boston
Cape Ann Museum Library & Archive
Image: Cape Ann Museum

Provenance (Information known to date; research ongoing.)

Private collection, on loan at the Farnsworth Museum

Exhibition History

No known exhibitions.

Published References

Wilmerding 1994: The Artist's Mount Desert: American Painters on the Maine Coast, fig. 58, p.64. ⇒ includes text
Wilmerding 2005: Fitz Henry Lane, ill. 70, text, p. 69, Sunrise on the Maine Coast.
Keck 2006: Walking in the Wilderness: The Peripatetic Tradition in Nineteenth-Century American Literature and Painting, fig. 31, text, pp. 261–65, Sunrise on the Maine Coast.
Wilmerding 2007a: Fitz Henry Lane & Mary Blood Mellen: Old Mysteries and New Discoveries, p. 15, fig. 3, Sunrise, Mount Desert. ⇒ includes text

Related historical materials

Maine Locales & Buildings
Vessel Types
Fitz Henry Lane Biography
Citation: "Sunrise on the Maine Coast, Mount Desert Island, 1856 (inv. 295)." Fitz Henry Lane Online. Cape Ann Museum. (accessed June 17, 2024).
Record last updated March 16, 2023. Please note that the information on this and all pages is periodically reviewed and subject to change.
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