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Catalog entry

inv. 41
View of Coffin's Beach
Ipswich Bay
1862
Oil on canvas
20 x 30 1/8 in. (50.8 x 84.1 cm)
Inscribed verso: View of Coffin's Beach, from the rocks at / the Loaf, after a sketch taken, August, 1862. / by Fitz H. Lane. / Presented to Dr H.E. Davidson and Lady / by the Artist

Commentary

View of Coffin's Beach is an evocative, late work by Fitz Henry Lane in which topography and anecdote are subordinated to the delicate beauty of dawn hues breaking over the land and water. The painting is based on a sketch Lane made from Two Penny Loaf, a rocky outcropping at the northern end of Coffin's Beach on Ipswich Bay in Gloucester, Massachusetts: Coffins Beach from the Loaf, 1862 (inv. 153).

Conservators and curators at the Museum of Fine Arts have concluded that Lane used a camera lucida, a mechanical drawing device, to capture the shoreline with great accuracy. (1) While the finished painting replicates the outlines of the drawing, Lane widened the composition, accentuating the horizontal format and emphasizing both the expansiveness of the landscape and a sense of emptiness. Lane's subtle blending of the glowing pink to blue of the early morning sky transforms a topographical study into one of his finest landscapes.

Place, though, remained important to Lane and his patrons. On the back of the canvas, the geographical location is made clear. An inscription, now clearly identified as having been written by Lane himself, reads: "View of Coffin's beach, from the Rocks / at the Loaf, after a sketch taken, August, 1862. / Presented to Dr. H. E. Davidson and lady/by the Artist." When Lane gave him this view of Coffin's Beach, Dr. Herman E. Davidson was an eminent physician in Gloucester. He had established his practice there in 1842 and soon became an active member of the community. He served on the school committee, was vice president of the Cape Ann Horticultural Society, and was a trustee of Oak Grove Cemetery. In 1873, Davidson was a founder and first president of the Cape Ann Scientific and Literary Association (now the Cape Ann Museum).

How Dr. Davidson and Lane met has yet to be established, but their relationship was close: Lane stayed with him and his wife Sarah in their home on Dale Avenue (now the Sawyer Free Library) in the summer of 1862, the year he sketched Coffin's Beach. Apparently the artist had had a major misunderstanding with his brother-in-law, Ignatius Winter, who was married to Lane's sister Sarah. The couple lived with the artist, but after their disagreement, Lane felt compelled to leave his own home temporarily and seek sanctuary with the Davidsons.

Lane often chose to paint sites in Gloucester of historical significance, including, for example, places such as Fresh Water Cove, known for the spring that Samuel de Champlain found there in 1606. Coffin's Beach, named after the landowners who established a farm there in the seventeenth century, is bracketed by the Essex River on the west and the Annisquam River on the east. A Revolutionary War incident occurred at the beach in 1775 when loyalist Captain John Linzee (or Lindsay) sent men ashore from the sloop of war "Falson" to procure sheep from the Coffin farm. Peter Coffin, an ardent patriot, gathered a handful of men and took position behind the dunes to ward off intruders. Their relentless volley of bullets convinced the sailor that there were more men protecting the farm than there actually were.

It was probably the presence of John Charles Fremont, however, rather than the Revolutionary War association, that drew Lane to Coffin's Beach in August 1862. A renowned explorer, Fremont had been controversial as a general in the Union army and overreached his authority. He had been recently relieved of his command and at the behest of a friend, spent the month on vacation camping at Two Penny Loaf. Lane made a drawing of the camp on the dunes (Fremont's Encampment at the Loaf, West Gloucester, 1862 (inv. 154)) from which he produced an oil (current location unknown) for Fremont's wife Jessie. Probably at the same time, the artist completed the drawing Coffins Beach from the Loaf, 1862 (inv. 153) that he used as the sketch for this painting, View of Coffin's Beach.

View of Coffin's Beach was given to the Museum by Dr. Davidson's daughter, Alice Davidson Tilton, and is one of the few Lanes in the collection that descended in the family of the original owner. The painting came into the Museum as Ipswich Bay, but it has been recently retitled to reflect the location and inscription more accurately. Lane's original titles most typically relate to his inscriptions.

– Karen Quinn

Reference:

1. Karen Quinn with Sandra Kelberlau and Jean Woodward, "Rediscovering Fitz Henry Lane's "View of Coffin's Beach" on Cape Ann," The Magazine Antiques CLXX, no. 1 (July 2006): 66–69.

[+] See More

Related Work in the Catalog

Supplementary Images

Proposed viewpoint of Lane when creating the picture. Viewpoint plottings by Erik Ronnberg using U.S... [more]. Coast Survey sketch chart of Gloucester Harbor 1855.
Photo: © Erik A.R. Ronnberg Jr.
 

Explore catalog entries by keywords view all keywords »

Subject Types:   Coastal Scene »
Seasons / Weather:   Sunrise »
Vessel Types:   Schooner »
Cape Ann Locales:   Coffin's Beach / Two Penny Loaf »

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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publication
1862 Cape Ann Advertiser 10.31.1862
1.31.1862
Newspaper clipping
Cape Ann Advertiser
Collection of Fred and Stephanie Buck

"MARINE PAINTING. – Mr. F. H. Lane has recently finished a splendid painting of Coffin's Beach, taken from the 'Loaf', which is one of the artist's happiest efforts. In the foreground is represented a ledge of cragged rocks over which the sea is tumbling in feathery foam; while stretching away to the right is the long sand beach and open bay. In the distance are seen the villages of Annisquam and Lanesville. The sun is just rising behind the hills, throwing his golden beams over the whole scene, forming a picture truly delightful to gaze upon. There is an air of solitary grandeur about the painting which we have seldom seen equalled, and we hope the artist will be induced to place it on exhibition for a few days."

Image: Collection of Fred and Stephanie Buck
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publication
1863 Gloucester Telegraph 12.26.1863
12.26.1863
Newsprint
Gloucester Telegraph
Cape Ann Museum Library & Archive

At a Sanitary Fair held at the Pavilion "obtained through the favor and generosity of the owner, Mr. SIDNEY MASON, of New York, and to whom many thanks are due."  "... hangs a fine picture, the generous gift of our own Artist, Mr. Lane.  The Subject is "Coffin's Beach," as seen from the "Loaf."  This is the most costly article on sale in the rooms, and is valued at $100. It will be disposed of by tickets $1 each."

Two paintings by Lane, Little Good Harbor Beach and View from the Loaf were on sale at the Fair.

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PDF
view ]
publication
Report on scholars' gathering in association with the exhibition Fitz Henry Lane & Mary Blood Mellen: Old Mysteries and New Discoveries
John Wilmerding, Karen Quinn, Marcia Steele et al.
November 15, 2007
Unpublished report
Cape Ann Museum, Spanierman Gallery

Report on Scholars' Gathering in Association with the Exhibition Fitz Henry Lane & Mary Blood Mellen: Old Mysteries and New Discoveries, organized by Cape Ann Museum, Gloucester, Massachusetts, in partnership with Spanierman Gallery, and curated by Professor John Wilmerding.

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"Coffin's Beach extends from the Essex River on the west to the Annisquam River on the east. The rocks called Two Penny Loaf, where Lane positioned himself in View of Coffin's Beach, 1862 (inv. 41), lie at the Essex end of the beach. Coffin's Beach was named for the landowners who established a farm there in the seventeenth century. In 1775 Peter Coffin (c.1724–96), an ardent patriot, and a handful of friends held off Captain John Linzee (or Lindsay), a loyalist, and his crew from the "Falcon" when they attempted to land and make off with sheep from the farm. However, the farm was abandoned in Lane's time, and it was probably the presence of John Charles Fremont (1813–90) encamped on Coffin's Beach in August 1862 that drew the artist to the site." (1)

Reference:

1. Karen Quinn with Sandra Kelberlau and Jean Woodward, "Rediscovering Fitz Henry Lane's 'View of Coffin's Beach' on Cape Ann," The Magazine Antiques (2006): 68.

photo (historical)
Coffin's Beach
Joseph H. Clark
September 30, 1888
Stereograph card
5 x 8
Cape Ann Museum Library and Archive
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map
1851 Map of the Towns of Gloucester and Rockport (detail of Annisquam River)
H. F. Walling
1851
44 x 34 in.
Henry Francis Walling, Map of the Towns of Gloucester and Rockport, Essex Co. Massachusetts. Philadelphia, A. Kollner, 1851
Cape Ann Museum Library & Archive

"Map of the Towns of Gloucester and Rockport, Massachusetts. H.F. Walling, Civil Engineer. John Hanson, Publisher. 1851. Population of Gloucester in 1850 7,805. Population of Rockport in 1850 3,213."

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publication
1862 Cape Ann Advertiser 10.31.1862
1.31.1862
Newspaper clipping
Cape Ann Advertiser
Collection of Fred and Stephanie Buck

"MARINE PAINTING. – Mr. F. H. Lane has recently finished a splendid painting of Coffin's Beach, taken from the 'Loaf', which is one of the artist's happiest efforts. In the foreground is represented a ledge of cragged rocks over which the sea is tumbling in feathery foam; while stretching away to the right is the long sand beach and open bay. In the distance are seen the villages of Annisquam and Lanesville. The sun is just rising behind the hills, throwing his golden beams over the whole scene, forming a picture truly delightful to gaze upon. There is an air of solitary grandeur about the painting which we have seldom seen equalled, and we hope the artist will be induced to place it on exhibition for a few days."

Image: Collection of Fred and Stephanie Buck
[+]
publication
1863 Gloucester Telegraph 12.23.1863
12.23.1863
Newspaper
Gloucester Telegraph

"The Cape Ann Sanitary Fair: [Held Tues–Fri in the Pavilion Hotel by favor of the owner Sidney Mason of New York] In another part of the Hall hangs a fine picture, the generous gift of our own Artist, Mr. Lane. The Subject is "Coffin's Beach," as seen from the "Loaf." This is the most costly article on sale in the rooms, and is valued at $100. It will be disposed of by tickets of $1 each."

[+]
publication
1863 Gloucester Telegraph 12.26.1863
12.26.1863
Newsprint
Gloucester Telegraph
Cape Ann Museum Library & Archive

At a Sanitary Fair held at the Pavilion "obtained through the favor and generosity of the owner, Mr. SIDNEY MASON, of New York, and to whom many thanks are due."  "... hangs a fine picture, the generous gift of our own Artist, Mr. Lane.  The Subject is "Coffin's Beach," as seen from the "Loaf."  This is the most costly article on sale in the rooms, and is valued at $100. It will be disposed of by tickets $1 each."

Two paintings by Lane, Little Good Harbor Beach and View from the Loaf were on sale at the Fair.

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map
Locator map: Coffin's Beach and the Loaf
H. F. Walling
1851
44 x 34 inches
John Hanson, Publisher
Cape Ann Museum Library & Archive

Also filed under: Loaf, The »

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Also known as "Two Penny Loaf," this is a rocky outcropping at the northern end of Coffin's Beach on Ipswich Bay in Gloucester, Massachusetts, from which Lane drew and painted Coffin's Beach. The Loaf was also the site of his creation of a drawing and a painting (now lost) of General Fremont's encampment.

Related tables: Coffin's Beach »
map
1851 Map of the Towns of Gloucester and Rockport (detail of Annisquam River)
H. F. Walling
1851
44 x 34 in.
Henry Francis Walling, Map of the Towns of Gloucester and Rockport, Essex Co. Massachusetts. Philadelphia, A. Kollner, 1851
Cape Ann Museum Library & Archive

"Map of the Towns of Gloucester and Rockport, Massachusetts. H.F. Walling, Civil Engineer. John Hanson, Publisher. 1851. Population of Gloucester in 1850 7,805. Population of Rockport in 1850 3,213."

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publication
1862 Cape Ann Advertiser 8.22.1862
1862
Newspaper clipping
Cape Ann Advertiser
Collection of Fred and Stephanie Buck

"GEN. FREMONT with his family and a portion of his staff, have been encamped at the 'Loaf' for the past fortnight. On Monday afternoon, in company with a few friends, we visited Coffin's Beach, and made a brief call at their encampment, having a strong desire to see the man of whom we have heard and read..."

Image: Collection of Fred and Stephanie Buck
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publication
1862 Unknown Newspaper
1862
Unknown newspaper

"Fremont's Camp.- Mr. Fitz H. Lane, has recently finished a very pretty painting representing the encampment of Col. Fremont at the "Loaf." It is executed with the artist's usual ability and gives a faithful idea of the scene. The painting is now on exhibition at the store of Procter Bros."

[+]
publication
1863 Gloucester Telegraph 12.26.1863
12.26.1863
Newsprint
Gloucester Telegraph
Cape Ann Museum Library & Archive

At a Sanitary Fair held at the Pavilion "obtained through the favor and generosity of the owner, Mr. SIDNEY MASON, of New York, and to whom many thanks are due."  "... hangs a fine picture, the generous gift of our own Artist, Mr. Lane.  The Subject is "Coffin's Beach," as seen from the "Loaf."  This is the most costly article on sale in the rooms, and is valued at $100. It will be disposed of by tickets $1 each."

Two paintings by Lane, Little Good Harbor Beach and View from the Loaf were on sale at the Fair.

[+]
map
Locator map: Coffin's Beach and the Loaf
H. F. Walling
1851
44 x 34 inches
John Hanson, Publisher
Cape Ann Museum Library & Archive

Also filed under: Coffin's Beach »

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Schooners in Lane’s time were, with few exceptions, two-masted vessels carrying a fore-and-aft rig having one or two jibs, a fore staysail, gaff-rigged fore- and main sails, and often fore- and main topsails. One variant was the topsail schooner, which set a square topsail on the fore topmast. The hulls of both types were basically similar, their rigs having been chosen for sailing close to the wind. This was an advantage in the coastal trade, where entering confined ports required sailing into the wind and frequent tacking. The square topsail proved useful on longer coastwise voyages, the topsail providing a steadier motion in offshore swells, reducing wear and tear on canvas from the slatting of the fore-and-aft sails. (1)

Schooners of the types portrayed by Lane varied in size from 70 to 100 feet on deck. Their weight was never determined, and the term “tonnage” was a figure derived from a formula which assigned an approximation of hull volume for purposes of imposing duties (port taxes) oncargoes and other official levies. (2)

Crews of smaller schooners numbered three or four men. Larger schooners might carry four to six if a lengthy voyage was planned. The relative simplicity of the rig made sail handling much easier than on a square-rigged vessel. Schooner captains often owned shares in their vessels, but most schooners were majority-owned by land-based firms or by individuals who had the time and business connections to manage the tasks of acquiring and distributing the goods to be carried. (3)

Many schooners were informally “classified” by the nature of their work or the cargoes they carried, the terminology coined by their owners, agents, and crews—even sometimes by casual bystanders. In Lane’s lifetime, the following terms were commonly used for the schooner types he portrayed:

Fishing Schooners: While the port of Gloucester is synonymous with fishing and the schooner rig, Lane depicted only a few examples of fishing schooners in a Gloucester setting. Lane’s early years coincided with the preeminence of Gloucester’s foreign trade, which dominated the harbor while fishing was carried on from other Cape Ann communities under far less prosperous conditions than later. Only by the early 1850s was there a re-ascendency of the fishing industry in Gloucester Harbor, documented in a few of Lane’s paintings and lithographs. Depictions of fishing schooners at sea and at work are likewise few. Only A Smart Blow, c.1856 (inv. 9), showing cod fishing on Georges Bank (4), and At the Fishing Grounds, 1851 (not published), showing mackerel jigging on Georges Bank, are known examples. (5)

– Erik Ronnberg 

References:

1. Howard I. Chapelle, The History of American Sailing Ships (New York: W.W. Norton & Co., 1935), 258. While three-masted schooners were in use in Lane’s time, none have appeared in his surviving work; and Charles S. Morgan, “New England Coasting Schooners”, The American Neptune 23, no. 1 (DATE): 5–9, from an article which deals mostly with later and larger schooner types.

2. John Lyman, “Register Tonnage and its Measurement”, The American Neptune V, nos. 3–4 (DATE). American tonnage laws in force in Lane’s lifetime are discussed in no. 3, pp. 226–27 and no. 4, p. 322.

3. Ship Registers of the District of Gloucester, Massachusetts, 1789–1875 (Salem, MA: The Essex Institute, 1944). Vessels whose shipping or fishing voyages included visits to foreign ports were required to register with the Federal Customs agent at their home port. While the vessel’s trade or work was unrecorded, their owners and master were listed, in addition to registry dimensions and place where built. Records kept by the National Archives can be consulted for information on specific voyages and ports visited.

4. Howard I. Chapelle, The National Watercraft Collection (Washington, DC: Smithsonian Institution, 1960), 74–76.

5. Howard I. Chapelle, The American Fishing Schooners (New York: W.W. Norton & Co., 1973), 58–75, 76–101.

artwork
Gloucester Harbor
Fitz Henry Lane
Gloucester Harbor
1852
Oil on canvas
28 x 48 1/2 in.
Cape Ann Museum, Gloucester, Mass., Deposited by the City of Gloucester, 1952. Given to the city by Mrs. Julian James in memory of her grandfather Sidney Mason, 1913 (DEP. 200)

Detail of fishing schooner.

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photo (historical)
Cape Ann Scenery: No. 321 " Marine Study"
Heywood
c.1865
Stereograph card
Frank Rowell, Publisher
stereo image, "x " on card, "x"
Cape Ann Museum Library & Archive

View showing a sharpshooter fishing schooner, circa 1850. Note the stern davits for a yawl boat, which is being towed astern in this view.

Also filed under: Historic Photographs »

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model
Model of fishing schooner "Amy Knight"
Model and photography by Erik A.R. Ronnberg, Jr.
Wood, metal hardware, cordage, paint
Model made for marine artist Thomas M. Hoyne
scale: 3/8" = 1'
Thomas M. Hoyne Collection, Mystic Seaport, Conn.

While this model was built to represent a typical Marblehead fishing schooner of the early nineteenth century, it has the basic characteristics of other banks fishing schooners of that region and period: a sharper bow below the waterline and a generally more sea-kindly hull form, a high quarter deck, and a yawl-boat on stern davits.

The simple schooner rig could be fitted with a fore topmast and square topsail for making winter trading voyages to the West Indies. The yawl boat was often put ashore and a "moses boat" shipped on the stern davits for bringing barrels of rum and molasses from a beach to the schooner.

– Erik Ronnberg

References:

Jeffrey Bolster, Black Jacks: African American Seafarers in the Age of Sail (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1997).

Howard I. Chapelle, American Small Sailing Craft (New York: W.W. Norton & Co., 1951), 29–31.

Image: Erik Ronnberg

Also filed under: Hand-lining »   //  Ship Models »

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illustration
Fishing Schooner sail plan, with overdrawing
Draftsman unknown; overdrawing attributed to Fitz Henry Lane
Pencil on paper in sail plan book titled William F. Davis, Gloucester 1845
20 x 14 in.
Cape Ann Museum Library & Archive, Gloucester, Mass.

The image, as originally drafted, showed only spars and sail outlines with dimensions, and an approximate deck line. The hull is a complete overdrawing, in fine pencil lines with varied shading, all agreeing closely with Lane's drawing style and depiction of water. Fishing schooners very similar to this one can be seen in his painting /entry:240/.

– Erik Ronnberg

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publication
1842 Gloucester Telegraph 8.3.1842
8.3.1842
Newspaper
"Shipping Intelligence: Port of Gloucester"

"Fishermen . . . The T. [Tasso] was considerably injured by coming in contact with brig Deposite, at Salem . . ."

Image: Cape Ann Museum Library & Archive
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publication
1857 Cape Ann Advertiser 10.1.1857
Procter Brothers
Various dates
Newsprint
From bound volume owned by publisher Francis Procter
Collection of Fred and Stephanie Buck

"A Prize Race—We have heard it intimated that some of our fishermen intend trying the merits of their "crack" schooners this fall, after the fishing season is done. Why not! . . .Such a fleet under full press of sail, would be worth going many a mile to witness; then for the witchery of Lane's matchless pencil to fix the scene upon canvass. . ."

Image: Collection of Fred and Stephanie Buck
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PDF
view ]
publication
1865 Cape Ann Advertiser 7.7.1865
Article about new masthead, designed by Lane.
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photo (historical)
Cape Ann Scenery: No. 114 Gloucester Harbor from Rocky Neck
John S. E. Rogers
c.1870
Stereograph card
Procter Brothers, Publisher
Cape Ann Museum Library & Archive

"Gloucester Harbor from Rocky Neck, Looking Southwest. This gives a portion of the Harbor lying between Ten Pound Island and Eastern Point. At the time of taking this picture the wind was from the northeast, and a large fleet of fishing and other vessels were in the harbor. In the range of the picture about one hundred vessels were at anchor. In the small Cove in the foreground quite a number of dories are moored. Eastern Point appears on the left in the background."

Southeast Harbor was known for being a safe harbor.

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photo (historical)
Cape Ann Scenery: No. 82 View of Sch. "E. A. Horton"
Procter Brothers, Publisher
1870s
Stereograph card
Cape Ann Museum Library & Archive

"Said schooner was captured about the first of September, 1871, by Capt. Torry, of the Dominion Cutter 'Sweepstakes,' for alleged violation of the Fishery Treaty. She was gallantly recaptured from the harbor of Guysboro, N.S., by Capt. Harvey Knowlton., Jr., (one of her owners,) assisted by six brave seamen, on Sunday night, Oct. 8th. The Dominion Government never asked for her return, and the United States Government very readily granted her a new set of papers."

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photo (historical)
Head of the Harbor, Gloucester
William A. Elwell
1876
Photograph
Cape Ann Museum Library & Archive
Image: Cape Ann Museum
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photo (historical)
Inner Harbor, Gloucester
c.1870
Cape Ann Museum Library & Archive (2013.068)

Schooner fleet anchored in the inner harbor. Looking east from Rocky Neck, Duncan's Point wharves and Lane house (at far left), Sawyer School cupola on Friend Street.

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illustration
Precursor to Gaff Rig of Schooners
Fitz H. Lane
In John J. Babson, History of the Town Gloucester (Gloucester, MA: Procter Brothers, 1860)

See p. 254.

As Erik Ronnberg has noted, Lane's engraving follows closely the French publication, Jal's "Glossaire Nautique" of 1848.

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model
Shadow box model of Burnham Marine Railway
Erik Ronnberg
1997
Wood, cordage, acrylic paste, metal
~40 in. x 30 in.
Erik Ronnberg

Model shows mast of fishing vessel being unstepped.

Image: Erik Ronnberg
[+]
artwork
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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artwork
Untitled (Ships Anchored in Gloucester Harbor)
D. Jerome Elwell
1892
Watercolor on paper
8 3/4 x 19 3/4 in.
Cape Ann Museum, Gloucester, Mass., Gift of Rev. and Mrs. A. A. Madsen, 1950
Accession # 1468

Fishing schooners in Gloucester's outer harbor, probably riding out bad weather.

Image: Cape Ann Museum
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photo (historical)
View from Belmont House, of a fishing wharf, with the Old Fort of 1812 opposite
William A. Elwell
1876
Photograph
Cape Ann Museum Library & Archive

Ignatius Weber's windmill (now defunct) is shown.

Image: Cape Ann Museum
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photo (historical)
Vincent's Cove
William Augustus Elwell
1876
Print from bound volume of Gloucester scenes sent to the Philadelphia Centennial Exhibition.
11 x 14 in.
Cape Ann Museum Library & Archives

Schooner "Grace L. Fears" at David A. Story Yard in Vincent's Cove.

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Dr. Davidson (1815–90) was a close friend of Lane and his personal physician in Gloucester. He signed Lane’s death certificate. He and his wife received equal portions of Lane’s five-hundred-dollar legacy, and Dr. Davidson inherited Lane’s gold watch and chain.

The Davidsons lived in Gloucester from 1842 until 1878, and for most of that time inhabited the old Sanders house, now the Sawyer Free Library. Dr. and Mrs. Davidson were relatively wealthy, owning shares of gas, steamboat and railroad companies, “machinery used in manufacturing establishments,” a horse, a chaise, a large house with barn, an acre of land and two- to three-thousand-dollar “cash assets.” (1) Their land lay to the north of Middle Street along Mason Street, including what is now occupied by the Central Grammar apartments (the old high school). (2)

The house had been Beach’s house, with the rope walk behind, but Phebe Wilson Davidson (Dr. Herman’s mother) bought it from the Eastern Railroad Company on February 19, 1850. (3) It was bequeathed to Herman E. Davidson by Phebe’s will, dated November 12, 1859. This elegant house and the gardens were drastically disrupted by the laying out of Dale Avenue in 1866, a year after Lane’s death, and the anguished doctor sued the Town.

The Davidsons also had an unwanted ring-side seat for the 1866 construction, the 1869 fiery destruction, and the 1871 reconstruction of the Town Hall on that newly laid-out Dale Avenue. Dr. Joseph Garland wrote of his older contemporary: "Dr. Davidson, was a thoroughly educated physician. He was of studious habits and deeply interested in scholarly pursuits. He was a skilled physician of the modern school of medicine, and never believed in crowding drugs into his patients. His practice was expectant—watching and waiting upon nature, and ever ready to assist her efforts in repelling or subduing disease. He soon acquired a good practice and secured the confidence of the community." 

Edward Henry Lane wrote: “… Dr. Davidson … was one of his [uncle Lane’s] closest friends, and almost every Sunday, weather permitting, would find them together at the Doctor’s home.” (4) It was to the Davidson house that Lane fled and sought refuge during the time of unpleasantness with Ignatius Winter. It was in their upper bedroom that Lane slept and dreamt the famous dream of the painting on the wall. And it was to his hostess, Sarah M. Davidson, that Lane gave the sketch of this Dream Painting. Dr. Davidson was the first president of the Cape Ann Scientific & Literary Association, the predecessor to the Cape Ann Historical Association. 

On August 9, 1859, Dr. Herman Davidson was married to Mrs. Sarah M. (Bowker) Chamberlain in Boston by Gloucester’s Universalist minister, Rev. W. R. G. Mellen, who was Mary Mellen’s brother-in-law. Herman was forty-four and Sarah was thirty-two. (5) They continued to live in Gloucester until 1878—having traveled abroad from 1872 to 1875—when he left on account of his wife’s health, to reside in the milder climates of this country. She died at Washington, D.C. on May 16, 1880.  After traveling abroad for several years he died at Northeast Harbor, Mount Desert, Maine, in 1890.

Among the many inventions devised by the doctor was the Davidson Bulb Syringe now universally in use, and a meat press "that anyone can use to press all the juice from the beef into a dish for the use of invalids." (6) Still another invention was called “Davidson’s Method in Ichthytaxidermy” or the mounting of fish for use in the study of Natural History.

In Gloucester, Davidson was a member of the school committee for several years, the first President of the Cape Ann Scientific & Literary Association, Vice President of the Cape Ann Horticultural Society, one of the Corporators of Oak Grove Cemetery, and a member of the Board of Trustees until his departure from the City. 

Dr. Davidson was buried in Oak Grove Cemetery, not far from the Stevens plot and the grave of Fitz Henry Lane. (7) His and his wife Sarah’s remains were removed to the more outlying plot #283 on Jasmine Lane in 1947, when his original gravesite was sold back to the Oak Grove Cemetery by his daughter Alice Davidson Tilton. (8) The bronze plaque on the large boulder at plot #283 reads: Hamilton Davidson 1787–1848; Phebe Davidson 1785–1858; Herman E. Davidson M.D. 1815–90; Charles H. Davidson 1812–60; Mary Jane Davidson 1820–36; Eliza Ann Delano 1817–53.

Alice Davidson Tilton gave View of Coffin's Beach, 1862 (inv. 41) to the Cape Ann Museum.

– Stephanie Buck (March, 2015)

(1) Assessor’s Valuations, Harbor Parish East Ward, 1862-64. Gloucester Archives, CC223.

(2) D. G. Beers & Co., Map of the Built up Portion of the Town of Gloucester, Mass. 1872. Cape Ann Museum.

(3) Essex County, Salem, Registry of Deeds, Bk. 436, 293; and Bk. 563, 19.

(4) Edward H. Lane, Cape Ann Scientific & Literary Association. Weekly Column on Matters of Local History, Gloucester Daily Times, March 23, 1916.

(5) Massachusetts Vital Records, Marriages, Boston, vol. 128, 77.

(6) An unpublished obituary by Rhodes Lockwood, handwritten manuscript from the Authors and Artists of Cape Ann, Cape Ann Historical Association Scrapbook #86, as in Sarah Dunlap and Stephanie BuckFitz Henry Lane: Family and Friends. (Gloucester, MAChurch & Mason Publishing; in association with the Cape Ann Historical Museum2007), 85.

(7) Plot #452, Hickory Avenue, Section 7.

(8) Oak Grove records, Gloucester Archives.

publication
1862 Cape Ann Advertiser 1.31.1862
1.31.1862
Newspaper clipping
Cape Ann Advertiser
Collection of Fred and Stephanie Buck

"MARINE PAINTING. – F. H. Lane, Esq., has recently completed a picture for Dr. H. E. Davidson of this town. The painting represents a sunset scene in our harbor, which is taken near the cut bridge, introducing the beach covered with rocks and pebbles, steep bank, and Stage Fort, with the surrounding scenery in the vicinity. . . It is impossible to give an adequate idea of this painting by any description of ours, for it must be seen to be appreciated. It is the largest painting the artist has yet finished, and, in our opinion, his best. The painting is now on exhibition at the Studio, for a short time, where those who are interested in works of art can have an opportunity of viewing it."

Image: Collection of Fred and Stephanie Buck
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publication
1862 Cape Ann Advertiser 10.31.1862
1.31.1862
Newspaper clipping
Cape Ann Advertiser
Collection of Fred and Stephanie Buck

"MARINE PAINTING. – Mr. F. H. Lane has recently finished a splendid painting of Coffin's Beach, taken from the 'Loaf', which is one of the artist's happiest efforts. In the foreground is represented a ledge of cragged rocks over which the sea is tumbling in feathery foam; while stretching away to the right is the long sand beach and open bay. In the distance are seen the villages of Annisquam and Lanesville. The sun is just rising behind the hills, throwing his golden beams over the whole scene, forming a picture truly delightful to gaze upon. There is an air of solitary grandeur about the painting which we have seldom seen equalled, and we hope the artist will be induced to place it on exhibition for a few days."

Image: Collection of Fred and Stephanie Buck
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publication
1862 Cape Ann Advertiser 7.18.1862
7.18.1862
Newspaper clipping
Cape Ann Advertiser
Collection of Fred and Stephanie Buck

"We learn that Dr. H.E. Davidson is shortly to exhibit to our citizens, some stereoscopic pictures on a large scale. The pictures are said to be truly magnificent, and are magnified to a great extent, showing every detail in a clear and life-like manner. The proceeds of the exhibition will be given to the Public Library, after paying the expense of the instrument. Due notice will be given of the the exhibition."

Image: Collection of Fred and Stephanie Buck
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artwork
Dr. Herman E. Davidson
Edwin T. Billings
Oil on canvas
Collection of the Cape Ann Museum, Gloucester, Mass.
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manuscript
Lane death certificates, August 1865
Dr. Herman Davidson, City of Gloucester
Gloucester City Archives.
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letter
Letter on verso of Dream Painting
Fitz Henry Lane
1862
Letter
Terra Foundation for American Art, Chicago

A letter affixed to the verso of Lane's Dream Painting of 1862 in which he describes how the idea for the painting came to him in a dream. Lane writes: "This picture, the Property of John S. Webber Esq, Collector of the Port and District of Gloucester, was (suggested) to the artist by a dream. Sometime last fall while asleep in bed, a richly furnished room was presented to my imagination. Upon the wall my attention was attracted to a picture which I have here endeavored to reproduce. The dream was very vivid and on awakening I retained it in memory for a long time. The effect was so beautiful in the dream that I determined to attempt its reproduction, and this picture is the result. The drawing is very correct, but the effect falls far short of what I saw, and it would be impossible to convey to canvas such gorgeous and brilliant colouring as was presented to me. This picture, however, will give to the beholder some faint idea of the ideal. /signed/ Fitz H. Lane."

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PDF
view ]
manuscript
Will of Fitz H. Lane
FItz. H. Lane
October 3, 1865
Essex County Probate Records, Volume 424, Leaves 34 & 35

The will disposed of Lane's property (including watch and diamond breast pin), his monetary assets, and gave to the city of Gloucester a painting of the Old Fort. Joseph Stevens, Jr. and T. Sewall Lancaster were named executors. It was signed by Lane on March 10, 1865.

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Exhibition History

1966 DeCordova Museum: DeCordova Museum, Lincoln, Massachusetts, Fitz Hugh Lane: The First Major Exhibition, no. 51, as Ipswich Bay.
1972 Katonah Art Gallery: Katonah Art Gallery, Katonah , New York, Luminism in the Nineteenth Century.
1988 National Gallery of Art: National Gallery of Art, Washington, District of Columbia, Paintings by Fitz Hugh Lane, no. 18, ill., p.13, as Ipswich Bay.

Published References

McLanathan 1956: Fitz Hugh Lane (Museum of Fine Arts Picture Book Number Eight), p. 9, as Ipswich Bay. ⇒ includes text
Wilmerding 1966a: Fitz Hugh Lane: The First Major Exhibition, no. 51. ⇒ includes text
Museum of Fine Arts, Boston 1969: American Paintings in the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, ill., p. 174.
Wilmerding 1971a: Fitz Hugh Lane.
Gould 1980: "When All's Shipshape."
Hoffman 1983: "The Art of Fitz Hugh Lane," p. 35, as Ipswich Bay.
Metropolitan Museum of Art 1987: American Paradise: The World of the Hudson River School.
Wilmerding 1988a: Paintings by Fitz Hugh Lane, ill. in color, p. 13, as Ipswich Bay.
Troyen, Moore, and Diamond 1997: American Painting in the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston: An Illustrated Summary Catalogue, p. 180.
Quinn 2006: "Rediscovering Fitz Henry Lane's "View of Coffin's Beach" on Cape Ann," figs. 1, 3, p. 69.
Craig 2006a: Fitz H. Lane: An Artist's Voyage through Nineteenth-Century America, pl. 29, as View of Coffin's Beach.
Craig 2006b: "Fitz Henry Lane: An Affinity for the Sea," ill., pl. 29, p. 28.
New England Journal of Aesthetic Research 2007: "Fitz Henry Lane Used Camera Lucida?."
Wilmerding 2007b: Report on scholars' gathering in association with the exhibition Fitz Henry Lane & Mary Blood Mellen: Old Mysteries and New Discoveries. ⇒ includes text
Citation: "View of Coffin's Beach, 1862 (inv. 41)." Fitz Henry Lane Online. Cape Ann Museum. http://fitzhenrylaneonline.org/catalog/entry.php?id=41 (accessed July 21, 2017).
Record last updated March 28, 2017. Please note that the information on this and all pages is periodically reviewed and subject to change.
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