Window on the Marsh celebrates paintings, photographs capturing Great Marsh’s distinct beauty

Works on view: March 19 to Sept. 27, 2022

Martin Johnson Heade (1819-1904), Sunset on the Marshes, 1867, Oil on canvas, Private Collection, Photography by Bob Packert

GLOUCESTER, MASS. (March 2022) – Stretching across 25,000 acres of vast salt marsh, barrier beaches, and tidal rivers on Massachusetts’ North Shore is the Great Marsh, a natural wonder that has captivated many artists over the years. Window on the Marsh is a new exhibition at the Cape Ann Museum that features two works of the marsh by each of the renowned painters Martin Johnson Heade and Fitz Henry Lane is accompanied by four photographs by the turn of the century artist, Martha Hale Harvey. The show opens March 19 and runs through Sept. 27, 2022.

Although working over a century ago in different mediums, the three featured artists captured the innate beauty of the Great Marsh in black and white photography and luminescent paintings. Thanks to the generosity of a private lender, the Cape Ann Museum is able to feature two of Heade’s works in Window on the Marsh on view in the special projects display area within the Museum’s permanent Lane Gallery.

“Bringing together differing responses to this singularly inspiring place is something we love to do at the Museum. This exhibition and juxtaposition of works in different media provides visitors with the opportunity to explore this landscape from the perspectives of a talented and underrecognized photographer as well as from two exceptional painters,” said Cape Ann Museum Director Oliver Barker. “Window on the Marsh also invites the exploration of that inescapable intersection of environment and art on Cape Ann.”

For nearly 45 years, Heade (1819-1904), one of America’s most prolific and well-known painters in the 19th century, focused his artistic talents on capturing the Great Marsh’s distinct beauty. Two paintings from that series, Sunny Day on the Marsh (Newburyport Meadows) (c. 1871-75) and Sunset on the Marshes (1867), both on loan from a private collector, will be on display for the exhibition, showcasing Heade’s ability to capture the changing light of a day and amid storms off the Atlantic Ocean.

Fitz Henry Lane (1804-1865) is known as a marine painter, but two of his most successful works are marsh views on Cape Ann: Babson and Ellery Houses, Gloucester, and The Babson Meadows of Riverdale, both done in 1863. For generations, the Babson homestead in Gloucester was one of a handful of saltwater farms on Cape Ann, and the paintings showcase Lane’s exceptional skill at painting seascapes as well as landscapes. These two paintings will also be part of the exhibit.

Martha Hale Harvey (1863-1949) was one of Cape Ann’s earliest and accomplished female photographers. She worked with plate glass negatives, making images of people, Gloucester’s working waterfront, and coastal areas around her home in Annisquam, and most notably of the Great Marsh.

Working with Harvey’s original 4×5” glass plate negatives of marshes along the Annisquam River and at Wingaersheek Beach, contemporary award-winning photographer Anne Rearick created prints of Harvey’s work in her darkroom.  Based in Gloucester, Rearick is a professional photographer and teacher who is also Guggenheim fellowship recipient. Four of Harvey’s photographs as reproduced by Rearick will be part of the Window on the Marsh exhibit.

Martha Hale Harvey (1863-1949).  Marshes along the Annisquam River, c. 1900.  Printed in 2021 by Anne Rearick from a glass plate negative in the collection of the Cape Ann Museum.

On March 19 at 1 p.m., the Museum is planning a special program, The Cultural and Environmental Significance of the Great Marsh, with a panel discussion about the importance of the Great Marsh with Patricia Hanlon, author of Swimming to the Top of the Tide, Kim Radochia, creator of Heart in the Haystack show last year by the Museum at its Cape Ann Museum Green campus, and Dr. Danielle Perry, Coastal Resilience Program Director for Mass Audubon. To sign up, visit: https://www.capeannmuseum.org/events/camtalks-exhibition-series-cultural-and-environmental-significance-great-marsh/.

“An historically and ecologically important resource, the Great Marsh was traditionally used for salt marsh haying, beach plum and cranberry harvesting, fishing and clamming,” said the Museum’s Curator Martha Oaks who organized the show. “In addition to these very practical uses, the Great Marsh has also served as inspiration for generations of artists.”

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