American Art Colonies, 1850-1930: A Historical Guide to America's Original Art Colonies and Their Artists

By Steve Shipp | Go to book overview
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Chapter 10
North Conway Art Colony

[Benjamin] Champney and his fellow artists were a prolific group, producing hundreds of pictures which communicated the fascinations and the enchantment of mountain scenery as it could be enjoyed from North Conway.

William G. Hennessy and Frederic A. Sharf

North Conway, an early popular destination for aspiring mountain landscape painters, is in the White Mountains of New Hampshire, near the Maine border. Among the first artists to "discover" the White Mountains was landscape specialist * Thomas Cole in the autumn of 1927, "in search of resonant events, both natural and human, that would confer dignity and importance upon the landscape of his adopted country." 1 Cole returned to the area several times during the 1920s and 1930s, seeking what essayist Robert L. McGrath called "poetical associations" that would help him "transform the seemingly intractable wilderness into a state of aesthetic and psychological respectability." 2

The first professional artist to establish a home and studio in North Conway was * Benjamin Champney, who visited the area in 1850 with fellow artist * John F. Kensett and was overwhelmingly impressed with its landscape subject matter. Champney and Kensett later characterized the area around North Conway as "a large natural poem in the landscape." 3 Writing about the 1850 sketching tour with Kensett in 1893, Champney said: "I had heard vaguely that North Conway possessed many attractions for the landscape painter and we determined to explore and ascertain the truth of the rumor. . . . The scenery grew in beauty as we studied it and, as autumn came on, the color changes enhanced its attractiveness so much that we remained until the middle October."4

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