Tuesday, July 10, 2012

PTown Artists Paint Outdoors Thanks to Charles W. Hawthorne

It is not unusual at all here in Provincetown to see an artist working outdoors, even in the dead of winter. We are the oldest continuous artist colony in the nation, now in our 113th year as an ongoing "colony" of artists, if you will. It was 1899 when the Painter Charles W. Hawthorne founded the Cape Cod School of Art, of course, right here in Provincetown, and within several years there were about half-a-dozen bustling art schools here. Hawthorne established a studio on Miller Hill Road where he taught theories of light and its effects on color. He gave instruction to students outdoors near the harbor in the summers and spent his winters in Paris and New York.
Hawthorne was also a founding member of the Cape Cod School of Art in 1914. On August 27th, 1916, there appeared a front-page story in the  Boston Globe titled "Biggest Art Colony in the World in Provincetown." Norman Rockwell spent a summer studying with Hawthorne at the Art Students League in New York.
Hawthorne taught his students to paint en plain air, a French phrase meaning "in the open air." In the late 1800s the French figured out how to put paint in tubes that could be taken outdoors, allowing artists to move out of their studios and to paint in natural light. Before that time, paints were mixed in the studio, and artists worked only indoors. Hawthorne was seen as something of a revolutionary when he arrived here in 1899 and began teaching his students this new way of painting in the outdoors.
The art collection at Provincetown Town Hall includes the painting above, titled "Fish Cleaners." Visit Town Hall, at 260 Commercial Street, to see this painting for yourself.
Click to see other works of Charles W. Hawthorne.

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