Please see also: Fitz Henry Lane & Mary Blood Mellen
Mary Blood Mellen has emerged as one of the most talented artists to work on Cape Ann in the years immediately preceding the Civil War. Born in Vermont and raised in Sterling, Massachusetts, Mellen attended a girls' academy where she studied the art of painting in watercolor. The circumstances under which she and Lane met remain uncertain; however, by the 1850s they knew each other, and Mellen would soon begin using Lane's drawings and paintings as the basis for her own works.
Like many women artists of her generation, Mellen was a copyist, and a growing body of evidence indicates that Lane gave his student free access to his works. While evocative of Lane's paintings, Mellen's exhibit her own distinct palette, treatment of space, and level of detail. (1)
Mellen made direct copies of more than half a dozen of Lane's favorite subjects: Gloucester Harbor, Norman's Woe, A Storm Breaking Away: Vessel Slipping her Cable, Entrance of Somes Sound, Two Ships in Rough Water, and as noted above, the Blood Family Homestead.
Lane's original of Two Ships (location unknown) was purchased by James H. Mansfield, whose sister described it as "one of the most beautiful Lanes I have ever seen—a picture of a barque dismasted, and rolling in a heavy sea. The touch was very soft and beautiful." Another Lane follower and copyist, the Gloucester artist D. Jerome Elwell, said, "that sky was painted con amore." When Lane died, Mellen's copy was said to have been on his easel at Duncan's Point.
In addition, there were other subjects Mellen painted multiple times, most notably A Smart Blow, Ten Pound Island at Sunset, and Owl's Head. These vary in quality from refined to stiffer and weaker interpretations. It makes one pause over Stevens's frequent phrase written on a number of Lane's drawings, "Paintings made from this drawing" for several listed clients.
– John Wilmerding
(1) Label, Cape Ann Museum, Gloucester, Massachusetts.