Located in the Mount Washington Valley of New Hampshire, the small town of Madison has long been home to plein air painters and other artists.
Early in the nineteenth century artists first began to travel to the White Mountains of New Hampshire to paint and sketch. Arriving by horse drawn coach or carriage, for most of these travelers Mount Chocorua was the first prominent and identifiable peak they saw. Two of the main stage coach lines to northern New Hampshire ran through Madison where several establishments provided stables and lodging for guests.
“These early paint[ers] portrayed a dramatic landscape with an emphasis on nature and man’s insignificance. One of these early artists, and the founder of the style of painting that would later be called the “Hudson River School,” was Thomas Cole (1801-1848).
New Hampshire native Benjamin Champney (1817-1907) is considered by many to be the founder of the “White Mountain School” of painting. “In effect, he established one of America’s first artist colonies. He made his first trip to the White Mountains in 1838 on a summer excursion that was to change the course of his life and career. In 1853, he bought a home in North Conway and spent the rest of his life painting in the greater Conway area.”
“Champney attracted other artists to come to North Conway in the summer to paint. The area was filled with artists painting “en plein air” under their umbrellas. In 1855, The Crayon wrote that North Conway had become “the pet valley of our landscape painters. There are always a dozen or more here during the sketching season, and you can hardly glance over the meadows, in any direction, without seeing one of their white umbrellas shining in the sun.” Winslow Homer depicted these artists in his 1868 painting titled Artists Sketching in the White Mountains. “
“Each White Mountain artist had certain characteristics that would distinguish his work. Some painted particular vistas depicted in each of the four seasons of the year. Shapleigh had his own slightly primitive style and used the same “props” over and over again in his paintings. He is known for painting landscapes as seen from the inside of a house or barn looking out through an open door or window. Inside the room would be such props as a ladder back chair, a cat, a basket, a straw hat, and/or a tall clock.”
Quotations from John J. Henderson and Roger E. Belson. For more of their excellent information on White Mountain artists and the White Mountain School visit http://whitemountainart.com/history/history_wmaa.htm).
The Jackson Historical Society mounted a wonderful exhibit of Shapleigh’s work. The exhibit inspired their entry in this year’s Mount Washington Valley “Pumpkin People” contest.
Two other artists have special ties to Madison and Silver Lake. Though better known for his poetry, E. E. Cummings spent many summers painting at Joy Farm, his family farm in Silver Lake. Completely self-taught, Cummings’ early work was abstract and modernist. In 1926 he decided to “resume painting in a new direction”. His new direction included numerous landscapes of Mount Chocorua painted from Joy Farm. In a catalog statement for one of his one-artist shows, Cummings posed and answered a persistent question about his two arts: Tell me, doesn’t your painting interfere with your writing? Quite the contrary: they love each other dearly.
A native of Madison, Charles A. Hunt ( 1852-1930) painted the farms and mountain views of his hometown. Among these paintings are “The Goe Hill Homesteads” and “The Harriman-Ambrose Homestead”, paintings of two Tour Barn locations.
More information on Hunt can be found in Visions from a White Mountain Palette, The Life and Times of Charles A. Hunt, by Roy Bubb.
Barn Tour Art Show and Silent Auction
A special event taking place during the Madison Historic Barn Tour weekend is the Barn Art exhibit and silent auction featuring barn related paintings, watercolors, and photographs by juried members of the Mount Washington Valley Arts Association and local invited artists. The art show will be hung in the Chick Room of the Madison Library from July 3rd through the end of the month, during library hours. The silent auction will conclude at 3pm on Saturday July 12th when winning bidders may pick up their purchases. All the artists are donating a portion of the sale price of each work to the Friends of Madison Library. Be sure to spend some time at the show and place your bids.