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Unknown Lane Watercolor Discovered at an Auction in Belgium

A watercolor of a ship in rough seas
Three Master in Rough Seas (Watercolor), c.1856 (inv. 795)

This work is a recent discovery as of 2022, a slightly smaller watercolor version of the dynamic small oil, Three Master in Rough Seas, 1856 (inv. 4), in the collection of the Cape Ann Museum. This painting was acquired at a recent auction in Belgium as an unknown work. Gallery labels on the back show that it was at some point sold through the Max Bine Gallery in Paris which was active from 1914–1930. Lane did very few watercolors; we have not seen him use the medium as preparatory works for oils where one would expect a looser technique as he worked out ideas. The brushwork here is very precise and he doesn’t use washes or scumbles as is typical in preparatory works. He appears to be copying his oil original as the composition and details precisely follow the oil painting.

The original oil went directly from Lane’s studio to the Stacy family in Gloucester where it descended until given to the Cape Ann Scientific, Literary and Historical Association in 1948. This watercolor version is unrecorded—perhaps Lane did it for a friend as all his commissions we know of were for oil paintings, as was typical of the time. The paper is a fairly smooth, off-white paper, not a heavy or wove paper as one would expect for a watercolor commission. It is painted right to the edges of the paper, again atypical of a commission, where a border would be expected as Lane used in the watercolor Shooting Seabirds, c.1842 (inv. 789). How it got to Paris in the early 1900s remains a mystery.

– Sam Holdsworth

Citation: "Unknown Lane Watercolor Discovered at an Auction in Belgium." Fitz Henry Lane Online. Cape Ann Museum. http://fitzhenrylaneonline.org/page/news.php?id=9 (accessed May 21, 2022).
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