East Coast Ideals/West Coast Concepts*


Ramona with two paintings by Hawthorne at the Provincetown Art Association & Museum.

Ramona and I have just returned from a great trip out to Boston and Cape Cod, our first time to Massachusetts. The Cape is a really fascinating place with a long history of art, still going strong today. California could learn a few things about aesthetics from the area.

We flew out for the openings of Painting New England Together at the Cape Cod Museum of Art in Dennis, MA and Paintapalooza at Addison Art Gallery in Orleans, MA. (Lots of photos are online on Facebook.) I’ve got to give a big California Thank You to everyone out there for making our stay so hospitable – Paul and Pharr Schulenburg, Peter and Kathleen Kalill, Jeff Bonasia, and Helen Addison along with Domonic Boreffi over at Addison Art Gallery for their huge effort in making this all happen. It was really wonderful meeting everyone at the receptions.


Hawthorne's studio in Provincetown

We spent some time up in Provincetown (P-Town) and saw the studios of Charles Webster Hawthorne (1872 – 1930) and Henry Hensche (1899 – 1992). We got to check out the small but nice collection at the Provincetown Art Association & Museum, and visited the historic Beachcomber’s Club too, of which a number of the guys in our exhibition are members of. [Two artists who were members of both the Beachcombers Club as well as the California Art Club: Richard Edward Miller (1875-1943) and Christian von Schneidau (1893-1976).] I made a good effort to seek out work by Hawthorne and Hensche while we were there – they’re hard enough to come by on the east coast, and virtually nowhere to be seen out in California. That search led me to Vose Galleries in Boston, which has been a leading gallery in that area for six generations(!). We met Carey Vose, and she and the staff were kind enough to pull out some amazing paintings by Hawthorne, Paul Dougherty (1877-1947), and Childe Hassam (1859-1935) that they had. You definitely need to stop at Vose if you’re going to Boston; it’s really much more like a museum than a gallery.


detail of "Still Life" by Hawthorne

Detail of a still life by Hawthorne, collection of Provincetown Art Association & Museum


Vose Galleries, 238 Newbury Street in Boston

 Looking forward to our next trip back east! Who knows, maybe there will be a sequel – Paintapalooza: P-town.


*I borrowed this title from a 1997 exhibition that focused on the artistic lineages of the Boston School and the California Impressionists.

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14 thoughts on “East Coast Ideals/West Coast Concepts*

  1. Logan Hagege

    Good seeing you out here Eric and Ramona! Glad you packed so much in, in such a short time. I still haven’t seen Hawthorne’s studio, I will have to bug Paul, Pete or Jerome to take me over there!

  2. Eric Merrell

    Hi Dan, you’re right, there is a huge difference. I don’t think it’s possible for modern printing techniques to reproduce Hensche’s work, his color range was just so incredibly expansive. Same with Hawthorne, his work contains quieter color, not quite the chromatic intensity that Hensche later developed but incredibly subtle.

    Hey Logan – we covered a lot of ground, thanks to our many great hosts and tour guides. Now when I get back I can just plunk down and paint. Too bad the other guys out here couldn’t make it, I’m sure they would have loved it.

  3. Jeff Bonasia

    Eric and Ramona…it was great spending time with you drivng back to Boston…hope you enjoyed your last night and day in town. Did you get to the North End? The MFA? Hope the tripback was uneventful and youre now plunking down painting – or photographing kings…or whatever. Great seeing you bot…and I like the idea of a Provincetown Paintapalooza. I’m sure in addition to great subject matter… we’d have quite a night at the club if that came to pass.

    Logan, thanks for the Bonasia Balls praise…although I’m hoping next year my paintings get noticed that much – hah!

    be well all.


  4. Jeff Bonasia

    PS…Eric I spent quite a while with your still lifes today. Killer. i am loving them…lots of time studying the colors and color relationships…..and I found Hensche’s and Hawthorne’s books in my bookshelves – dusting them off to recall their insights to color etc..


  5. Eric

    Hi Jeff, thanks again for the lift to Boston, just perfect timing. We took your advice and hit up Giacomo’s, super tasty, then went to Vose Galleries, the Copley Society, the Guild, and the Gardner. Isabella, not Frank. I think the time change caught up with me that last day, but am back to myself now.

    Great – you won’t be able to put your brush down after reading those little books.

  6. Jeff Bonasia

    sounds like you guys had a full last night and day,,,a great lineup of stops. glad you’re rested and back on your feet.

    I’m off for a full day of painting with Henry and Charles


  7. Eric

    Hey Jeff, I’ve thought a little more about the approach of Bongart as opposed to Hensche, it’s a good question. I think in general the Russian approach looks for the ‘moods’ of nature and plays opposites off of each other (warm/cool, life/death, male/female, etc.) while Hensche might say (for example) that a particular day is yellowish, then maybe washing in the board and keying things to a yellow harmony (or green or blue, etc.). I don’t know Hensche’s approach enough to speak authoritatively, but that seems to be one way of looking at it.

  8. Logan Hagege

    Hey Eric, Paul and I got a tour on the Hawthorne studio from the real estate agent who is representing the property. It is pretty nice up there. Too bad they had to sell of the land of the property, and now 2 units are being built right near his studio. Still a cool place…I think they are asking about $800,000 for the studio and 1 million for the house. Maybe we should get our friends together and buy the studio and open a summer school! Wishful thinking I guess, but it would be great!

  9. Eric

    Hey Logan, yeah, those other two houses are disappointing so close, but still a great place. I made friends with one of the cats up there, but I guess it was a little too much because then he promptly gouged my hand! Maybe they’d knock a bit off the asking price if we promised to put an art school there…

  10. logan hagege

    Yeah the realtor mentioned that they would rather keep the studio a school and would be more willing to work with artists that would like to keep it a school. Maybe we need to organize a fundraiser/art show to get the funds for the studio.


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