1894 and 1902 poem and photo series on the business of fishing and the beauty & charm of Gloucester | Clarence Manning Falt #GloucesterMA essentials

Clarence Manning Falt (1861-1912) was a Gloucester poet and photographer, a son of a Canadian immigrant & fisherman and a Gloucester mother & homemaker (born and raised in a fisherman generations family herself). They had seven children. The Falt family eventually purchased 172 East Main Street; Clarence and his surviving siblings continued to live there as adults. It’s a huge home.

photo caption: 172 East Main Street, Gloucester, Mass. An Edward Hopper drawing of this Gloucester house, which I identified, was gifted to the Minneapolis Art Institute and included in a travel exhibition highlighting major drawings from this famous repository.

Clarence Manning Falt clerked for various businesses on Main Street to support his art practice.

By the 1900 census, clerk was dropped from the “occupation” category, “Author” stood alone.

Falt photographed and wrote about Gloucester, where he was born and raised during the late 1800s. His work reflects his own personal experiences including the fishing industry of his parents’ world. The best ones connect readers to this world because of his talents and an insider’s careful observations. Some of the writing relies too much on tropes and can be a chore, though never as difficult as the jobs he portrays, and may stick with you just the same because he is successful in providing such accurate and detailed examples of the business of fishing and the beauty of Gloucester. Some poems rise to evoke a full and cinematic day at the docks and ideas to mull over.


POINTS OF INTEREST: GLOUCESTER IN SONG

Falt’s book of poems and photographs, Points of Interest Gloucester in Song, was published in 1894, the year after his mother died. He dedicated the volume to her. Examples of his original and stunning photographs are from the copy held in the collection of the Library of Congress which was digitized. The pairings aren’t always successful and one might long for more photos, as I have. A few appear to be source photos for vintage postcards.

“To those who have grown up from childhood amid the grandeur and solemnity of these scenes, to the stranger who has become familiar with them, may their hearts be quickened with a keener appreciation for, and a deeper sympathy with, all that has made Gloucester and its suburbs charming and historic.”

Clarence Manning Falt

photo caption: Fog Bell and Whistling Buoy, Eastern Point Lighthouse

and: The Old Fort, Eastern Point and: The Bell, The Whistle, and the Buoy

example of photo surpassing (dated/trope) poem example | photo caption: A Legend of the Whipping Post, Middle Street

Have you seen this rock face profile?

photo caption: The Watcher

Have you walked past this balancing skinny topper?

photo caption: Lot’s Wife

Poem titles and links for the photo grid below:

(take time to enlarge the photos!)

photo caption : A Winter’s Day at Rafe’s Chasm

Falt poems from nature (without photographs) from this volume and worth a read

THE BLUETS
  
 IN mosses green
 A charming scene,
 To me a sweet surprise,
 In bright array
 This fair spring day
 The bluets greet my eyes.
  
 Each dainty cup,
 Is lifted up
 With tints of heaven’s hue; 
 Each budding gem
 A diadem
 Bespangled with the dew.
  
 Like tiny shields
 Amid the fields,
 On bodies, slim and frail,,
 They wave and bend
 And sweetly send
 The Welcome Spring’s All hail!
  
 Where bright sunshine
 By one divine
 Can reach each fragile heart,
 They lovely gleam
 Like some sweet dream
 And Joy’s sweet pulses start.
  
 My better self
 (The heart’s stored wealth)
 Enraptured at the sight
 On each sweet face
 See’s Heaven’s grace
 And life, immortal, bright.
  
 On, tiny blooms,
 When waking tombs
 Lie buried ‘neath the snow,
 And Death doth keep
 Guard o’er thy sleep
 And blust’ring winds they blow,
  
 Backward apace
 My heart will trace,
 And bring, begemmed with dew,
 ‘Mid mosses green 
 The charming scene
 Of you, sweet buds of blue.
  
 -Clarence Manning Falt, 1894, 
in Gloucester, Ma. 

Bluets, photo courtesy Justine Vitale

WHARF AND FLEET

Falt’s volume of poems and photographs, Wharf and Fleet: Ballads of the fishermen of Gloucester, was published in 1902. A copy of the book held at the University of California was digitized and uploaded in 2006.

This one was dedicated to Winthrop L. Marvin* (1863-1926), author of The American merchant marine; its history and romance from 1620 to 1902, also published in 1902.

“…Ever since 1713 Gloucester has been the peculiar home of the schooner, and this is now and long has been the unvarying rig of her unrivalled fleet of deep-sea fishermen. The first entry of a schooner in Boston’s commerce occurs in 1716, — “Mayflower,” Captain James Manson, from North Carolina. As Captain Andrew Robinson was a direct descendant of John Robinson who preached to the Pilgrims at Leyden, it is conjectured that this “Mayflower” was the fist schooner, the original Gloucester craft. Be this as it may, her useful successors are numbered by the thousands,…”

and re: the 100 days War with Spain:

“At the Gloucester recruiting station, in the early summer of 1898 , 76.5% of the men examined were accepted. At Boston the percent accepted was 14.5; at New York only 6. This means that in physique and intelligence the fishermen of New England are very much superior to the merchant sailors of the great seaports. So valuable a national resource as the deep-sea fisheries cannot be suffered to decline.”

*Winthrop Lippitt Marvin – U.S. journalist, and author; Civil Service Commissioner of Massachusetts; secretary of the Merchant Marine Commission

Back to Falt

Clarence Manning Falt was clearly proud of his parents and hometown and had a linguist’s ear and aptitude for the music of words. He studied public speaking and drama in Boston and New York. This book incorporates strongly stylized dialect deliberately, heavily.

“There is no distinct vernacular used, for the nationalities represented in this fishing port are so complex as to render that impossible, but there are many phrases in general use which I have endeavored to bring forth in these ballads. Born in this seaport city, with blood of seafaring people in my veins, the grandeur and pathos of this variable life have ever enthralled me.”

Clarence Manning Falt

More From his intro

Gloucester’s “population at the writing of this work is about 29,000. As a fishing-port, it is the largest in the world. Here can marine life be studied in all its phases. Here, lying at their moorings, will be found the up-to-date Gloucester fishing vessels, for the modern type of fishing vessel is t he pride and delight of a Gloucester skipper’s heart. He considers his stanch craft his ocean home. Indeed, these handsome vessels are as fine as the stately yachts that daily grace the harbor, for one would immediately note their fine sheer, perfectly fitting sails, clean decks, trim rig, and crews of able-bodied seamen, marking a wonderful and almost magical development from the primitive types of the quaint shallops, pinnaces, and pinkies of the olden days.

Gloucester harbor, like some might arena of old, is terraced with impregnable bastions of rugged hills and seared and time-furrowed cliffs…At night its beauty is unrivalled. Seaward its light-towers flash and gleam…the fleets glowing to port and windward, vying landward with the city’s brilliant reflections, sparkling with the shimmering glows of the wharf lights, the anchored fleets, and the inverted spangles of the stars of heaven… The wharf life has also developed marvelously. Every up-to-date method of prosecuting this industry is employed. This development has brought many new occupations and newer characteristics of the life. ”

Clarence Manning Falt, 1902 excerpt from his introduction Wharves and Fleet

A Matter of the Ear

“Packin’ Mack’r’l” — that does sound musical, and easily missed! How it makes me smile imagining Falt enlivened by the sights and sounds all about, fishing for just the right words and photographs; all the while diligently preserving a specificity of Gloucester’s fishermen’s dialect; a language all its own, encompassing many nationalities; one in which he was fluent and could translate and that he felt through his art. I wish that there was an audio recording of his reading aloud (or under his direction).

reminder comparable- post Civil War there was an uptick of slang dialects expressed in American writing, notably Tom Sawyer published 1876 and Huck Finn 1885(US)

Falt poem & photos- Gloucester sound and “see”scapes

SELECTION OF FALT’S POEMS

Many of the poems from Wharves and Fleet include vivid definitions tagged beneath which are delightful, personal and informative.

photo caption: “Th’ Spider an th’ Fly” Driving’ th’ spiles; buildin’ th’ w’arves

In building a wharf, the piles are first inserted into holes made in the dock, then after being carefully inserted and put in shape, they are driven down to a certain point by a heavy iron weight suspended from the top of the scow.

“Fly an’ spider”: figuratively used when the heavy iron weight (“th’ spider”) strikes the top of the pile (“th’ fly”). An old saying, long handed down by the fisher-folk**.

Notes from – Clarence Manning Falt

**have you heard this expression?

Ride stilts- “reflections of the piles at low tide. As the hawser lifts and drips and the crew hauls upon it, the phosper at night gleams most beautifully.

Notes from – Clarence Manning Falt

Dryin’ time after a heavy rain or spell of easterly weather, one of the most picturesque scenes of the harbor is the hanging of hoisted and half-hoisted sails from all sorts of crafts to dry in the coming forth of the sun.

Note about “Drying Time” – Clarence Manning Falt

Some of the poems I like most helped me learn about ancillary jobs and a bigger , tender portrait of this port.

GITTIN’ UNDERWAY

           GITTIN’ UNDERWAY 
 In th’ early dawn ere th’ doors unlock,
 Then it’s crick, crick, crick, an’ it’s 
      crock, crock, crock
 An’ it’s ho an’ hi fer th’ blocks ter talk
 In th’ early dawn e’er th’ doors unlock.
  
 Then it’s ho na’ hi fer th’ dreams ter die,
 Fer th’ crews an’ th’ bunks ter say good-by,
 Fer th’ yawn an gape, fer th’ stretch an’ sigh,
 In th’ early dawn ere th’ cocks crow high
  
 Then it’s ho fer doublin’ th’ Woolsey smocks,
 An’ twicein’ th’ toes in th’ home-knit socks,
 An cuddlin’ th’ ears up under th’ locks,
 An’ haulin’ down tighter th’ souwes’ chocks.
  
 Then it’s ho fer housin’ th’ rubber boots,
 An’ firmin’ th’ heart in th’ stiff oil suits,
 W’ile the cuddies blaxe, an’ th’ coffee goots,
 An’ th’ windlass creaks, an’ th’ horn it hoots.
  
 Then it’s ho fer grubbin’ an’ hi fer drink,
 Then shadder th’ gangway an’ meet th’ brink
 Ter shape out th’ course an ter careful think
 In th’ early dawn w’ile th’ stars still blink.

“Block ter talk”: the hoisting of the sails.
“Woolsey smocks”: flannel shirts.
“Souwes’ chocks”: the flannel-line lappets 
that are attached to the sou’westers.
“Housin’ th’ rubber boots”: pulling them on.
“Cuddies”: forecastle.
“Windlass”: it is located forward the foremast,
and is used in weighing up the anchor.
“Horn”: the hand foghorn.
“Shape out th’ course”: making the grounds
by chart and compass.
“Sou’wester”: a broad-brimmed oil-cloth hat 
with ear-lappets lined with flannel.
   -------
 Clarence Manning Falt, Wharf and Fleet, 1902, Gittin’ Underway, p. 37-38 

TH’ NIPPERWOMAN

          TH’ NIPPERWOMAN 

  I SEE her black shawl mid th’ butts
      Clutched tight erpon her breast,
  I see her black cloud full uv ruts
      Er shamin’ off its best,
  I see her pinched an’ wrinkled face
      Er quizzing uv th’ crew,
  An’ this ter-nigh is ole Mart Place,
      That once wuz Marthay True.
    
   I see her lookin’ down th’ deck
      Ter git some welcome nod,
   Or still perchance th’ courage beck
      Ter put her feet erboard.
   I know her arms are tired out
      Er holdin’ uv th’ string,
   Fer ev’ry one is knitted stought
      Ter pace th’ haddickin’.
    
   Oh, Marthay True uv long ergo,
      Could you have looked ter see
   Yer rosy cheeks an’ eyes erglow
      Come cryin’ back ter thee,
   Could you have looked ter see each braid
      Thin twisted stran’s uv snow,
   I know yer would ter God have prayed
      Fer ankrige long ergo.
    
   Oh, Marthay True that bird-like sang,
      An’ twined th’ red rose high,
   An bade my boyhood’s heart ter hang
      Er love-light in thine eye,
   Could you have known th’ years would
               fling
   Yer, stranded wreck uv Time,
     Ter sell with ev’ry knitted ring
   Er dead heart’s silent chime,     
    
   Er Nipper woman in th’ cold,
      Unnoticed an’ forlorn,
   Mid fisher faces sad an’ bold,
      With hearts bruised like yer own,
   I know yer would ter God have prayed
      Fer ankrige long ere this,
   Than rather been by Fate errayed
      Er thing fer chance ter kiss.
    
   O, Marthay True, we laugh an’ woo,
      An’ twine th’ red rose high,
   An prate, an’ tell what we will do,
      With laughter in our eye;
   But way down in our hearts we know
      Time’s but er fickle thing,
   An’ ere life’s winds begin ter blow
      Come grief an’ sufferein’.
    
   Oh, Marthay True, we laugh an’ woo,
     An’ twine th’ red rose high,
   An prate, an’ tell what we will do,
     With laughter in our eye;
   But soon, too soon, our castles fall,
     Our gay ships drink th’ sea,
   An’ what should been joy’s merry call
    Jest tears fer memory.
    
   Oh, Marthay True, God wot that thou
     Meet luck with all th’ fleet,
   An if er kind word will endow
     I’ll speak it quick an’ neat.
   I know er fisher’s tender spot
     Is ankered in his heart,
   Fer once with Christ they threw th’ lot,
     An’ hauled er goodly part.  
             
   Oh, Marthay True, yer tale is told.
     Th’ hearts are tried an’ staunch,
   An, they have trawled er sum uv gold
     Ter speed yer in joy’s launch.
   God wot that thou mayst happy be.
     Jest keep yer sad heart bright,
   An’ He will steer yer down Life’s sea
     Ter find Hope’s port erlight.   

Nipper woman: one of a class of women who knit 
and sell to the crews of the fleet the woolen 
nippers worn to prevent chafing of the fishing lines.
It is an industry pursued in the winter 
and sold to the firms and the crews in the 
early spring, at the fitting out or in the fall 
at the “shifting of voyages.”

Nippers: when the trawl gets caught, 
--“hung up,” in fishing vernacular,
--mittens are removed and the trawls 
are hauled in with a pair of nippers, 
bracelets of knitted wool or 
cloth held in the palm of the hand, 
creased to allow of a better hold of the line.
  
 ------
Clarence Manning Falt, Wharf and Fleet, 1902 
Th’ Nipper woman,  p. 37-38        

Woolen nippers from Gloucester on view at the Smithsonian were exhibited in the 1883 International Fisheries Exhibition in London. I think of Falt’s poem, Th’ Nipper Woman, above, when I see this display, and find it all the more poignant now picturing the women & men working the dock and sea and seasons at port. Intimate and full. Gentle and rough.

photo caption: Nippers. ca. 1880s. US Fish Commission. National Museum of American History, Smithsonian, Washington, DC

GAFFIN’ FISH

          GAFFIN' FISH
 W’EN th’ tide is out er flirtin’,
   An’ fergits ter shut its door,
 An’ th’ happy clams are squirtin,
   Playin’ injine with the shore,    
    
 An th’ kids are ripe fer junkin’,
   An’ fer skippin’ rocks an’ shells,
 An fer woodin’ an’ fer punkin’
   Bobbin’ bottles in th’ swells,  
    
 An’ yer hear th’ rats er squalin’
   Frum th’ black cracks in th’ walls,
 An’ yer quiz th’ tomcats stealin’ Nearer,   
   nearer ter th’ calls,    
 
 An’ yer mark some ole trap histid,
   Like er giddy thing on cogs,
 With its body kind uv listid
   T’ward th’ black spiles an th’ logs,
    
 All togged up in robes uv coal tar,
   Yaller oaker, sash’s an’ bo’s,
 P’r’aps er crimson-pintid five-star
   Sunburs’in’ its puggy nose,  
             
 Like some poor, ole primay donnay
    Thet has wobbled all her say,
 Now shoved further ter th’ corner
    W’ile th’ daybute works her lay,
    
  P’r’aps er ole T.D. er puffin’ 
    Frum er drollin’ mouth er stern,
  Use ter bluffin’, use ter cussin’, 
    Use ter words I know yer’v hern,
    
 Then yer know time’s ripe fer gaffin’
   An’ fer puntin’ roun’ th’ docks,
 Fer it’s then th’ crews git chaffin’
   An’ er rattlin’ th’ pitchforks,
    
 Fer it’s then th’ strays go slippin’
   Frum th’ ole caps with er thud,
 An’ th’ guick gaffs raise ‘em drippin’
   Ter th’ sly punts frum th’ mud.
    
 Oh, it’s art ter watch th’ sneakin’
   Uv th’ puntin’ through th’ spiles,
 Oh, it’s art ter watch th’ peekin’
   Uv th’ gaffers an’ th’ wiles,
    
 Fer it’s thievin’ pure an simple
   An’ it’s skittish work at bes’,
 Though th’ cheek may wear th’ dimple,
   An th’ eye stan’ heaven’s tes’.     
          
 Oh, it’s risky work er gaffin’,
   Full uv duckin’s, fights, an’ jaws,
 Full uv skuddin’, full uv chaffin’,
   Full uv haul-ups, full uv laws.
    
 Fer if caught, as sure as Moses,
   Yer’ll be chucked deep in th’ dump,
 W’ile th’ smells uv sweet June roses 
   Won’t c’logne up th’ homeward slump.
    
When the trips are being taken out, 
often many fish slip from the pitchforks 
and sink to the docks. A class of young 
men and boys then row around in little boats, 
called punts, and gaff up the fish beneath 
the wharves and sell them. It is an illegal 
business, and if caught, they are subjected 
to a fine and imprisonment. 
It is operated at low tide.

“Ole trap histid”: the old-fashioned shore 
boats that haul up on the dock flats for repairs.

"Pintid five-star”: an old-fashioned emblem
For decorating ends of bowsprits.
------
Clarence Manning Falt, Wharf and Fleet: 
ballads of the Gloucester Fishermen, 1902 
Gaffin’ Fish, p.39-41        

For me, this one is a compelling balance: he carries water for the skippers and (less) for the gray market hustlers. It’s messy. His dad’s guiding hand on this one. Scroll back up and look at the “Th’ spider an’ th’ fly” photograph, the pilings and surface of the water. The images and words flow and force, back and forth. The pairings aren’t so cut and dry.

Clarence Manning Falt fast facts:

Born August 1861, Gloucester, Mass.
FatherCpt. Walter M. Falt
(b. Canada April 18, 1823- d. Glouc. 1904)
emigrated in 1845; fish dealer aka fish merchant 1870 census; skipper; master fisherman 1880 census; day laborer 1900 census
misspelled as “Fault”, Cpt and Master Sea Foam 1878
MotherMary Carlisle Robinson
(b. Glouc. 1826 – d. Glouc. 1893)
parents married Nov. 30, 1847
“keeping house”
Resided family home172 East Main Street,
he and his siblings with their parents
Edward Hopper drawing of this house in the collection of the Minneapolis Art Inst.
Day job clerk for downtown businesses (drugstores on Main)
Universitystudied oration and acting
Occupation“clerk” and “apothecary clerk” on earlier census
“author” on 1900 census
6 siblingsdates on family headstone
Marion, (1849 -1931) 1848?
Walter P. (1851-1877) laborer 1870 census
Julia Procter (1852-1924)
Clarence M. (1861-1912) author 1900 census
Austin C. (1866-1915) stevedore 1900 census
Roland H. (1868-1870)
Mary Taylor (1876-1917) 1874?
Published works1894- Points of Interest: Gloucester in Song
1902- Wharf and Fleet: ballads of the Fishermen of Gloucester
Died 1912
Gravefamily plot, Mt. Pleasant Cemetery

Under a Banner of Many Nations

Note from the author: Over the past week, I’ve shared Boston Globe Gloucester stories about immigrants: Swedish, Canadian, Italian, Sicilian, Portuguese , Irish, Scotch and so on. I thought of Falt’s books with each post.

Nations jump from the page when scanning vital stats documents, too- like this one from Gloucester birth registry 1868 – scroll over to the right through Occupation / place of Birth of Father/ place of Birth of Mother.

(To get the full experience, go big! The wordpress format reduces the size, however all photos in this post can be clicked, double clicked through, or pinch & zoomed to enlarge)

1897 Boston Globe century list of top captains

  • Captain Thomas Bohlin #3 “king pin among the halibut fishermen” (born in Sweden)
  • Captain Charles Harty tie for #2 mackerel “as a seiner his reputation has been made.”
  • Captain Solomon Jacobs #1 OG “widest known fisherman this country has ever produced…having started out as record beater, has had to live up to his reputation and has succeeded…” codfishery then mackerel seining – global expansion, lost everything & came back again “at the foot of the ladder. His old time luck had not forsaken him…” (born in England, brought to Newfoundland when a baby)
  • Captain Alex McEachern #7 high lines, particularly Grand bank codfisheries beat all records in 1897 (born Cape Breton)
  • Captain John W. McFarland tied for #2 “the only one to make two newfoundland herring trips, and marketed them in New York, on one season” (born in Maine)
  • Captain Andrew McKenzie #8 Iceland halibut and Newfoundland herring (born in PEI)
  • Captain Lemuel F. Spinney #5 “high line halibut catcher who is in the first flight of the “killers.” (born in Yarmouth, N.S.)
  • Captain Charles Young #6 halibut fleet -1895 record for most trips in one year (born in Copenhagen)
  • Captain Richard Wadding #4 halibut (born in England)

A June Morning – arch yes to my ear, and interesting catalogue of flora and fauna then

Edward Hopper at Oxford and T S Eliot at Turner Contemporary

Several European museum shows in 2018 contain examples or are devoted to American 20th century artists and modernism like the ones curated for the Ashmolean Museum at Oxford, the Royal Academy, Tate Modern and British Museum.

Massachusetts loans boast the Edward Hopper painting Manhattan Bridge Loop from the Addison Gallery of Art collection, Phillips Academy, Andover, selected for America’s Cool Modernism at Oxford. Three Hopper etchings (The Cat Boat, Night Shadows, and The Railroad) are on the checklist. Hopper depicted Gloucester in over 110 works of art. Besides Hopper, notable artists and writer with various Gloucester connections selected are: Stuart Davis, Marsden Hartley, e e cummings, and Louis Lozowick.

Edward Hopper Manhattan Bridge Loop Addison Gallery of American Art Phillips Academy Andover MA.jpg

 

Forgot the cry of gulls and the deep sea swell

 

 

Upcoming at Turner Contemporary – “Journeys with ‘The Waste Land’   a major exhibition (Sat 3 Feb – Mon 7 May 2018) considering Eliot’s watershed poem through visal arts, and Margate. I hope they turn to Gloucester and Cape Ann, unspoken in the final poem yet approachable (and specified in excised iterations). From the museum’s press release:

“Presenting artworks from the 19th century to the present, including film, photography and artefacts, the exhibition explores how contemporary and historical art can enable us to reflect on the T. S. Eliot poem, The Waste Land, and its shifting flow of diverse voices, references, characters and places.

Kitaj, If Not, Not SMALL.jpg

If Not, Not (1975-6), R.B. Kitaj, National Galleries of Scotland

In 1921, T.S. Eliot spent a few weeks in Margate at a crucial moment in his career. He arrived in a fragile state, physically and mentally, and worked on The Waste Land. The poem was published the following year, and proved to be a pivotal and influential modernist work.  Building on Turner Contemporary’s extensive experience in participation and engagement, the exhibition is being co-curated with a research group of 30 volunteers from the community, supported by the programme team at Turner Contemporary and external curator Professor Mike Tooby. Journeys with ‘The Waste Land’ is being funded by the Paul Mellon Centre for Studies in British Art and the John Ellerman Foundation.”

City Hall acoustics Inauguration Celebration 2018

Here are a few brief (less than 30 seconds each) sound snippets from the 2018 City of Gloucester Inauguration Celebration including Gordon Baird (God Bless America), Alexandra Grace, Josh Cominelli (National Anthem, You’ve Got A Friend), Fly Amero, John Ronan recitation (poem We, Helmsmen), Charlee Bianchini & Jack Tomaiolo (Don’t Stop Thinking About Tomorrow). To see great photos and portraits of the day, see Kim Smith’s post Inspiring City of Gloucester Inauguration Ceremony 2018. To see the printed program and the Mayor’s full remarks, visit the city website: http://gloucester-ma.gov/index.aspx?nid=956. I’ll add Cape Ann TV video link if/when it’s ready. Ray Lamont’s excellent coverage in the Gloucester Daily Times Taking the Oath of Office 

Gloucester Daily Times Inauguration Celebration 2018 Ray Lamont article.jpg

 

Continue reading “City Hall acoustics Inauguration Celebration 2018”

“Lean into the blustery sea” Inauguration Ceremony underway #GloucesterMA

Big, beautiful turn out and program featuring wonderful speakers and tributes to Mayor Romeo Theken, her essential address, the swearing in of officials, exceptional arts throughout, and fantastic emcee Ronda Faloon, Director of Cape Ann Museum. Councilor Lundberg is the Chair of City Council and Councilor LeBlanc is the Vice Chair.

-quote in title an excerpt from John Ronan great poem WE, HELMSMEN

IMG_20180101_130523

Rediscovered Artist: seeking information on Arthur William Wilson (1892-1974) also known as ‘TEX’, WINSLOW WILSON and PICO MIRAN active NYC, Rockport, Gloucester

squall-comin-winslow-wilson
Winslow Wilson, Squall Coming, photo http://www.winslowwilson.com

 

pico-miran-winslow-wilson-merry-go-round
Pico Miran (Arthur Winslow Wilson), Merry-go-Round, photo http://www.winslowwilson.com

Granddaughter Claudia Wilson-Howard writes Good Morning Gloucester seeking any information, biographical “tidbits”, or recollections about fine artist Winslow Wilson who resided in Gloucester and had studios in Gloucester and Rockport ca. 1946-1972.She is working on an excellent project: a digital resource about her grandfather.

I am the granddaughter of Winslow Wilson,” she writes, “an artist who spent most of his life on Cape Ann, painting under two names in two studios.  One studio, in Gloucester, the second in Rockport, and a member of the Rockport Art Association from 1946-1972, he was an active member of the art community. I have developed a website (www.winslowwilson.com), which is a work in progress.  I am attempting to develop as detailed a biography as possible, and was hoping …to reach out to the community to help gather any tidbit of information. Thank you very much!” 

Perhaps a reader of this blog can help identify a sitter in one of Wilson’s stellar unidentified local portraits.

Arthur William “Winslow” “Tex” Wilson, also known as Pico Miran was an American artist–primarily a painter– born on July 20, 1892  in Brady, Texas. His family moved to Junction, TX, where he graduated from high school, also the address he used while attending Harvard. Wilson  was a veteran of the First World War (National Guard, AEF) deployed to France 1918-1919. He died November 18, 1974 in Miami, FLA.

At Harvard

Wilson transferred from Texas A&M University to  Harvard. Roy Follett his professor at Texas A&M described Wilson’s impact on him as “atomic”, possessed with a creative intellect that surpassed the teacher’s.  And then the unthinkable…

For Wilson, life changed punishingly July 4, 1912 as he accidentally and horrifically killed his fellow undergrad, a friend and co-worker Merle DeWitt Britten on the job, driving the streetcar that crushed him. Wilson left Harvard, then came back. He skipped classes. At times he soared. He was a writer and editor of The Harvard Monthly  literary magazine with an impressive group of multi talented peers and friends: ee cummings; John Dos Passos; critic Gilbert Seldes; poet (Pulitzer prize winner) Robert Hillyer; poet (later Director MA Historical Society) R. Stewart Mitchell; Scofield Thayer*; and  James Sibley Watson*.

the-harvard-monthly-arthur-wilsonwilson-dos-passos-cummings

 

the-girl-that-advertised
Arthur Wilson undergraduate writing published in The Harvard Montly

The Harvard Monthly was founded in 1885 and ceased publication in 1917, its aim “to publish the best (undergraduate) articles, fiction and verse by students in the University.”  The words  “and verse” were added after E.E. Cummings gave their class commencement speech in 1915 on “The New Art” extolling contemporary expressions in music, the visual arts, and literature. “What really brought down the house was Gertrude Stein’s Tender Buttons,” he’d later say about this bit in the speech:

“unquestionably a proof of great imagination on the part of the authoress, as anyone who tries to imitate her work will discover for himself. Here we see traces of realism, similar to those which made the “Nude Descending a Staircase” so baffling. As far as these “Tender Buttons” are concerned, the sum and substance of criticism is impossible. The unparalleled familiarity of the medium precludes its use for the purpose of aesthetic effect. And here, in their logical conclusion, impressionistic tendencies are reduced to absurdity. The question now arises, how much of all this is really Art? The answer is: we do not know. The great men of the future will most certainly profit by the experimentation of the present period. An insight into the unbroken chain of artistic development during the last half century disproves the theory that modernism is without foundation; rather we are concerned with a natural unfolding of sound tendencies. That the conclusion is, in a particular case, absurdity, does not in any way impair the value of the experiment, so long as we are dealing with sincere effort. The New Art, maligned though it may be by fakirs and fanatics, will appear in its essential spirit to the unprejudiced critic as a courageous and genuine exploration of untrodden ways…how much of all this is really Art? The answer is: we do not know. The great men of the future will most certainly profit by the experimentation of the present period.” – ee cummings 1915 

ee-cummings-drawing-portrait-of-sibley-for-the-dial
ee cummings portrait of Thayer, printed in the Dial

*The Dial was founded by James Sibley Watson and Scofield Thayer. Emily Sibley Watson, Founder of Memorial Art Gallery in Rochester was friends with Marianne Moore

1917 NYC apartment with Cummings

Wilson and e.e. cummings (1884-1962) were roommates at Harvard, friends who hit the town. (There’s one story with them caught at a prostitute’s apartment.) They remained friends enough to room together more and carouse Greenwich Village. Thanks to $1000 from Thayer, Cummings joined Wilson in New York at 21 East 15th Street in 1917.

There are striking parallels, comparisons, and secrets in the lives they led. Both men were artists and writers that had tragic and shattering life experiences, and estranged and scandalous family stories.

According to Virginia Spencer Carr‘s 1984 biography of John Dos Passos, Dos Passos envied these two: “Wilson was already signing his paintings (when he signed them at all) “Winslow Wilson” and Dos Passos surmised (when?) that he would be recognized eventually for his stunning portraits and seascapes. He was convinced that Cummings was too assured a reputation as a painter and saw Dudley Poore as the best poet of the lot from Harvard who aspired to a career in letters.” 

All three enlisted in WW1. Cummings signed up for the volunteer ambulance corp along with Harvard chums Hillyer and Dos Passos. Cummings ended up a POW and wrote a novel about the experience, The Enormous Room. Cummings said he was a self-taught painter, helped along by friends from Harvard. Did he sign up for classes in New York? Where did Wilson study art in New York before WW1?

(Incidentally, Gertrude Stein was also a volunteer camion; it seems like a ‘who wasn’t?’ roster. The majority of the 3500+ drivers came from ivy league schools, especially Harvard. The American Field Service (AFS) ambulance unit grew to be the largest and was founded by Gloucester’s own A. Piatt Andrew in 1915, after helping out the year before.)

1920s

After the War, Wilson was in New York and abroad in Paris, and London (infamously). There was a blink of a marriage and divorce from Elizabeth Brice, and a daughter Caroline, a dancer, that he never saw again. At 34, Wilson and his  19 year old girlfriend Winifred Brown abandoned a baby. It was an international scandal. Wilson’s family stepped up and his brother Ernest raised the boy as his own. It was four decades before the baby learned about his biological parents. I know these wincing details because that boy, H Robert Wilson, is a good writer and did the research.

Arthur Wilson signed his paintings as “Winslow” Wilson, which fits as a wink at Homer. Seascapes as a subject. Private solitary life. It also works as a visual swapping out of “Tex” for East Coast “Winslow”. The initials become double letters (like e.e. cummings), and nearly a double name, minus one letter and there’s an anagram of Wilson. It’s even a  way to differentiate his name ‘Arthur Wilson’ from other artists and writers with the same name(s), initials (AW or the comic Aww), and friends. Winslow Wilson is decidedly not Edmund Wilson (though like many writers he credits “nearly everything” about his sources of style as a painter to him), artist Edward Arthur Wilson, artist Arthur Wilson (UK), artist Arthur Wilson (LA), artist Edward Adrian Wilson, to name a few.

Mostly, Wilson using “Winslow” seems a deliberate break from his traumatic past: living with the death of his friend, letting his family down, fighting in WW1, divorce, scandal, family secrets, and that difficult ee cummings portrait poem about him.

ca. 1922 ee cummings poem ‘Arthur Wilson’

E.E. Cummings poem “Three Portraits” (I. Pianist  II. Caritas  III. Arthur Wilson) is published in the modernist magazine the Broom: An International Magazine of the Arts, Volume 2, Number 4, July 1922. Founded and backed not nearly enough by Harold Loeb and Alfred Kreymborg, the Broom publication was a short lived (1921-24) modernist monthly featuring  “unknown, path-breaking” writers and artists (reproductions, original designs, translations). The cummings poem ‘Arthur Wilson’ was illustrated with woodcuts by Ladislaw Medgyes.  The issue’s cover design was by Fernard Leger;

the-broom-july-4-1922-fernard-leger-cover
Cover design by Fernard Leger, Broom, Volume 2 No. 4, July 1922

 

Picasso, Modigliani and William Gropper drawings were reproduced inside.

gropper-the-top-box-broom-july-1922

The text for III. Arthur Wilson follows (refer to the image for the visual spatial break in cummings prose).

ee-cummings-three-portraits-broom

III. Arthur Wilson
as usual i did not find him in cafes, the more dissolute atmosphere
of a street superimposing a numbing imperfectness upon such peri-
grinations as twilight spontaneously by inevitable tiredness of flang-
ing shop-girls impersonally affords furnished a soft first clue to
his innumerable whereabouts          violet logic of annihilation demon-
strating from woolworthian pinnacle a capable millenium of faces
meshing with my curiously instant appreciation exposed his hiber-
native contours,
aimable immensity impeccably extending the courtesy of five o’clock
became the omen of his prescience          it was spring by the way
in the soiled canary-cage of largest existence.

(when he would extemporise the innovation of muscularity upon the
most crimson assistance of my comforter a click of deciding glory
inflicted to the negative silence that primeval exposure whose elec-
tric solidity remembers some accurately profuse scratchings in a
recently discovered cave,           the carouse of geometrical putrescence
whereto my invariably commendable room had been forever subject
his Earliest word wheeled out on the sunny dump of oblivion)

a tiny dust finely arising at the integration of my soul i coughed

, naturally.
-E.E. Cummings

Like The Harvard Monthly and The Dial, Broom contributors were or would become recognized luminaries: Sherwood Anderson, Guillaume Apollinaire, Hans Arp, Conrad Aiken, Kenneth Burke, Robert M Coates, Jean Cocteau, Malcolm Cowley, Hart Crane, Adolph Dehn, Andre Derain, Raoul Dufy, Paul Eldridge, T S Eliot, Wanda Gag, Robert Graves, Juan Gris, William Gropper, George Grosz, Rockwell Kent, Paul Klee, Fernand Leger, Lipchitz, El Lissitzky, Amy Lowell, Louis Lozowick, Marianne Moore, Henri Matisse, Amedeo Mondigliani, Laszlo Moholy-Nagy, Pablo Picasso, Man Ray, ‘Charles Sheeler, Gertrude Stein, Joseph Stella, Wallace Stevens, Paul Strand, Max Weber, William Carlos Williams, and Virginia Woolf among other  artists and writers.

It was a small world and circle. The Broom contributors likely read that ee cummings poem about Wilson, and several knew both men. Names carried over from the Harvard-Dial network (Amy Lowell, Marianne Moore).

EE Cummings published Part III in later editions by the title “as usual I did not find him in cafes” omitting Arthur Wilson’s name.

1924 e.e. cummings visits Gloucester

to see writer, friend and editor R. Stewart Mitchell (1892-1957) who had a home here. Stewart Mitchell was another Harvard alumni (1915) and former Harvard Monthly editor. His face inspired the nickname “The Great Auk”. How nice being friends with artist-writers.

ee-cummings-pencil-portrait-of-stewart-mitchell

After serving in WW1, Mitchell was a managing editor and regular contributor for The Dial from 1919-21, then published poet. From 1928-1937 he was Managing Editor of the New England Quarterly journal, and from 1929- 57 an editor and Director of the Massachusetts Historical Society. On the Ma Historical Society seal : “It would hardly have done to compare the members of the Society to oxen, sheep, or birds … but bees had always had a good reputation for the sweetness and light of their honey and their wax. “– 1949 Stewart Mitchell

 

poems-by-stewart-mitchell

 

Did  Cummings and Arthur W. Wilson come to Gloucester while attending Harvard or at other times in the 1920s to see Stewart? Was Cummings in Gloucester other years, decades? Did Wilson and Mitchell re-connect in Gloucester? John Sloan’s etching Frankie and Johnnie illustrates EE Cummings’ play HIM. Did Wilson interact with Stuart Davis in Gloucester or New York?

(Aside: In 1984 the play ViVa Cummings! opened in Gloucester under the direction of William Finlay and the New Stillington Players. Did they know Cummings had been here…)

1935

Wilson fails to update his Harvard alumni association requests. Here’s the 1935 entry:

harvard-class-of-1915-printed-1935

1951 ELEANOR ROOSEVELT VISITS EXHIBIT AT AAA, NYC

roosevelt-visits-aaa
Artist Winslow Wilson guiding Eleanor Roosevelt through his solo exhibition at Associated American Artists, June 4, 1951.   Photograph from http://www.winslowwilson.com

Wilson’s painting from the 1951 Contemporary American Artists exhibition at the Associated American Artists won the people’s choice award, and his solo exhibit in June was attended and written about by Eleanor Roosevelt in her nationally syndicated MY DAY column:

HYDE PARK, Sunday—At lunch last Friday I had a visit from Mr. Tatsukichiro Horikawa, who is over here from Japan on a trip studying the World Federation movement in different countries. He has visited Switzerland, Germany, France and England, as well as the United States, and he came to see me before in New York City; but he wishes particularly to come up to Hyde Park and place some flowers on my husband’s grave.

I was especially interested in talking to him because, like so many of the World Federalists, he felt that the United Nations was very inadequate. He felt one must bring about more unity—and particularly, if we were going to have any settlements in the Far East, there must be unity between Great Britain and the United States as well as the other nations in their policy.

I asked him if he did not think it was a good deal to expect to have a unified policy among 60 nations when the organization bringing them together had been in existence only six years. It seems to me it requires longer for people to understand how the other peoples think and feel. World federation might someday be possible, but not until people have had a greater length of time to find out about each other. One of the American World Federalist members had also written me saying that the federation must come first and then be followed by understanding. I think this begs the question of how you obtain the federation and how, having obtained it in name, you do anything practical with it.

In New York City on Thursday afternoon I went to see an exhibition of paintings of the sea done by Winslow Wilson, at the Associated American Artists Galleries on Fifth Avenue. This exhibition was arranged under the auspices of Greenwich House, toward whose support a portion of the proceeds of any sale will go.

Mr. Wilson told me he did not paint actually from a scene he was looking at, but from memory. He said he particularly liked to use the sea because it was to him a symbol of the stress and strife we were all going through at present; and still it had a kind of discipline and control which was what most human beings were striving for today and finding difficult of achievement. I found some of his paintings quite beautiful, and reminiscent of many seacoasts I have known. In certain ones the light made one think of tropical climates; in others the shores of Maine seemed to stand out. More often the sky and the sea were stormy, but the light was nearly always breaking through. Let us hope that out of this turbulent period of history the light will break through for all human beings.

The other day I was sent a little pamphlet written by Eloise R. Griffith on the national anthems and their origin. I think this will be of interest to a great many people who want to know a little more than the mere words of the songs which we hear sung so often.” – Eleanor Roosevelt

I am thunderstruck reading a portion of sales would benefit Greenwich House. Talk about an undercurrent.

1951 Post-Modern Manifesto in the same year as the AAA seascapes

 

manifesto-for-post-modern-art-1951
https://winslowwilson.com/manifesto-for-post-modern-art/

“A complete study of Cummings should take penetrating account of his painting and drawing. And no estimate of his literary work can begin without noting the important fact that Cummings is a painter.” That’s the opener for Syrinx., a critique of Cummings by Gorham B. Munson published in Secession July 1923. “His first stimulus comes from the emotional and perceptive materials of his experience…Cummings has jabbed his pen into life, but he has also twisted it in the wound, and it is this twist of the pen that makes literature.” 

Knowing ee cummings facility with visual arts transforms how his poems read. He identifies both pursuits. The press announcement for Cummings appointment at Harvard in 1952 affirmed that he resided in New York City, writing and painting since the year 1920. It wasn’t that he sculpted marks–‘scratchings’- that could be seen as pictures in print,–it’s this charge when visual art and writing advance toward or basically obliterate media boundaries.

After reading Wilson’s 1951 Manifesto For Post-Modern Art published under his pseudonym Pico Miran, I felt a similar tug. For Wilson, when it comes to ideas and individuality, words and paint –and as many names and identities to match– matter.  Some of Wilson’s paintings could be shown alongside pages from ee cummings The Enormous Room.

There are takeaways and points one can make about this manifesto and painting series of Wilson. I can think of art I’d like to show together with this work.

Yikes, the thoughts about women! Here’s Wilson writing as Pico Miran in his Manifesto, emphasis on man apparently:

“But while he proposes to save the personal symbol, he must emphatically reject the conception of its privacy–a conception which he is compelled to regard as an effeminate misery: he cannot help thinking an almost unmanly exaggeration of the one bit of feminine make-up in every artist, here flouncing in absurd esthetic millinery, with coy desire for secretiveness, mysterious subjectivity, and vain feelings of cryptic superiority to the vulgar mass.” 

1951 Hidden, not lost

Wilson evidently maintained some contacts; note the supportive reviews by friends (Moore, Burke, Wheelock) later reprinted for his 1957 solo exhibit at Vose Galleries in Boston. Edward Alden Jewel, the New York Times critic, described Wilson as “living a hidden life of pure dedication and drudgery” in his 1951 NYC AAA review.

2015 Found. A great teacher

On Cape Ann, Wilson taught figurative painting through the Rockport Art Association, which he joined in 1946. Wilson is recollected as a dazzling teacher who could bring out the best in his students. One student’s 2015 recollection is a must read:  “Bing McGilvray of the Cape Ann Museum was fortunate to communicate with a local artist familiar with Wilson, Betty Lou Schlemm.”  Wilson sounds like the famous and captivating professors at Harvard.   Another unforgettable piece about Wilson’s biography concerns a local exchange between Pico Miran and Peter Anastas following a 1954 review by the latter.

For local readers, the www.winslowwilson.com website helpfully provides some Gloucester addresses associated with Wilson.

  • June 21, 1951: Bradford Building, 209 Main Room 208, Gloucester, MA
  • August 1, 1951: Marine Basin, E. Gloucester, MA
  • June 18, 1952: Bradford Building, 209 Main Room 208, Gloucester, MA
  • July 26, 1955: Bradford Building, 209 Main Room 208, Gloucester, MA
  • 1967 maybe 195 Main Street, Gloucester, MA
  • 1969 maybe 195 Main Street, Gloucester, MA
  • June 2, 1971: PO. Box 414, Gloucester, MA

Also:

21 Est 15th Street, 154 East 39th Street, Carnegie Hall, 3 Washington Square North in Greenwich Village, Woodstock, N.Y., and Lime Rock, CT.

John Ronan Gloucester’s Poet Laureate Video Part IV

Final Installment Of The John Ronan Interview

Don’t forget John will be reading from his new book Marrowbone Lane Thursday April 2 at Sawyer Free Library at 7PM.  It’s free and John will be signing his books.