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Catalog entry

inv. 789
Shooting Seabirds
Shooting Shore Birds
c. 1842
Graphite and watercolor
8 1/2 x 10 5/8 in. (21.6 x 27 cm)
Signed and dated lower left: Fitz H. Lane
Private collection


This exquisite early watercolor is one of only several we know by Lane. It is relatively small, 8 ½ inches by 10 ½ inches and is dated 1842. Lane was still working as a lithographer in Boston and is clearly employing those same techniques here with careful outline drawing and literal coloring. At first look it could be mistaken for a hand-colored lithograph. The work is signed on the front and is inscribed on the back, “John S. Chase Esq. Presented by Mr. Geo Parker, March 21, 1842.”

The site is likely a view from the Magnolia shore on the west side of Gloucester’s outer harbor looking east across to the Eastern Point lighthouse and the open ocean beyond. There is a wonderful primitive quality to the scale and perspective of the boats and the stylized drawing of the breaking waves. Lane has given equal emphasis to all elements of the composition, and while the coloring is quite literal he has created a lovely harmony with the various blues employed across the composition. It is a calm and jewel-like work with the innocent charm of 1840’s America.

Lane’s growth in sophistication over time is clearly evident in a very similar scene from the same coast eleven years later, Rafes Chasm, 1853 (inv. 597). Here the drama of the sky and sea is rendered in Turner-like explosions of foam and sunlight nearly obscuring the small figure of the hunter in the foreground.

–Sam Holdsworth

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Related Work in the Catalog


Explore catalog entries by keywords view all keywords »

Subject Types:   Coastal Scene »
Landscape Types:   Rocky Shoreline »
Animals & People:   Men »   //   Seabirds »
Activities of People:   Hunting »
Objects:   Vessel Signal Flag / Pennant »
Building Types:   Lighthouse »

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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Maritime & Other Industries & Facilities: Bird Hunting

Bird hunting was an activity undertaken for both pleasure and by fishermen to protect the drying fish flakes and their nets. During the nesting seasons, the breeding grounds were systematically raided and the absence of seagulls in Lane's harbor scenes can be attributed to the fact that the population of sea birds was controlled. In addition, watchmen with fowling pieces protected the fish flakes.

Related tables: Drying Fish »
1852 Journal of John M. Stevens
John M. Stevens
September 1–November 18, 1852
Personal journal
Wilson Museum, Castine, Maine
Box 2, F1 (A00772)

John Stevens was the younger brother of Joseph Stevens, and acquainted with Lane, spending time with him in Gloucester and at the family home in Castine. His journal, quoted below, includes reference to hunting plover and teal, school, sailing, local events. Mentions Castine mill, lighthouse, and block house.

"Friday [September] 17th: Cloudy all day. Wind N. blowing quite hard. A British Rig loaded with salt from Liverpool came into port last night. She run way up by the Monument and got aground. They kedged her off this P.M. and came down. She came in with one of these old English charts as her guide. They have the town set down on the Brooksville side, two miles + three quarters from the lighthouse."

"Wednesday [September] 22. . .Went down to the Indians Camp on the Back Cove. There were five camps of them." 

Visits Gloucester from Castine:

"Wednesday [October] 27th. . .Left for Gloucester [from Boston] at 5 o'clock this P.M. arrived there safe + sound at 6 1/2 o'clock; went right down to the store and saw Joe. We then went up to his house and got supper.

"Thursday [October] 28th. At. Gloucester. Pleasant day. Went down to the "Cut" a gunning this morning before breakfast but saw no birds. Went out in the harbor this forenoon alone, had a fine sail but couldn't get a chance at any birds. Went out again this P.M. got down to East Point Light and the wind died all away, so I had to scull home."

"Friday 29th. Very pleasant day, went out in the harbor this morning with Joe. Took a walk this A.M. with "Lina", called on Mr. Lane + Doct. Hildreth. Joe + I went out in the harbor this P.M. I fired at some birds several times, but didn't get any. . . ."


Provenance (Information known to date; research ongoing.)

Private Collection, New York.

Exhibition History

1974 Farnsworth Art Museum: John Wilmerding, Rockland, Maine, Fitz Hugh Lane 1804-1805, no. 3, ill. in b/w, anonymous lender.

Published References

Farnsworth 1974: Fitz Hugh Lane 1804-1865, no. 3.

Related historical materials

Maritime & Other Industries & Facilities
Citation: "Shooting Seabirds, c. 1842 (inv. 789)." Fitz Henry Lane Online. Cape Ann Museum. (accessed December 11, 2023).
Record last updated January 30, 2019. Please note that the information on this and all pages is periodically reviewed and subject to change.
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