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Fitz Henry Lane’s “Fishing Party” (1850)

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By Michelle Linker, Marist ’18

Fitz Henry Lane (also known as Fitz Hugh Lane) was born on December 19, 1804 in Gloucester, Massachusetts and died in his home there on August 13, 1865. He was born as Nathaniel Lane and when he was 27, he changed his name to Fitz Henry Lane for unknown reasons. During the early 20th century, there was confusion about what his true middle name was, with art historians incorrectly identifying him with the middle name Hugh instead of Henry.[i]

As a young child, Lane lost use of his legs, thought to have been caused by eating a poisonous fruit or possibly polio.[ii] This would force him to use crutches for the rest of his life.  He began studying printmaking under William S. Pendleton at Pendleton’s Lithography, until 1837, when he moved to work at a publishing firm.[iii] Yet the skills he was learning allowed him to open his own publishing firm in 1844. Around this time, he began doing oil paintings of seascapes and harbors. Perhaps it was this building passion for developing his art that inspired him to move back to Gloucester to build himself a studio and focus primarily on painting after only four years with his own print company.

His time at Pendleton’s Lithography trained him formally in art. His experience in printmaking familiarized him with tonal gradation in painting.[iv]  Lane would spend the rest of his life traveling around the Gloucester coastline as well as other US ports, such as Boston, Maine, and New York through the 1850s and 1860s.[v] Lane’s style evolved into what, in the 20th century, came to be referred to as luminism, and his usage of this style along with painting horizontal landscapes would categorize him as a Hudson River Valley School artist by art historians. He particularly liked to paint scenery of the coasts and the ocean.

MFA_FitzHenryLane

Fishing Party (1850) Oil on canvas. 19 5/8 x 30 1/4 in. (49.8 x 76.8 cm) Signed and dated lower right: F H Lane 1850. http://fitzhenrylaneonline.org/catalog/entry.php?id=50, 

Fishing Party (1850) is an oil on canvas painting by Lane, depicting a moonlight night in Indian Bar Cove in Brooksville, Maine.[vi] Lane had also used this scenery in a previous painting, View of Indian Bar Cove, Brooksville, Maine(1850), showing the cove during the late afternoon as the sun is beginning to set in contrast to the deep, cool colors of the night used here.[vii] Something rare about this painting in comparison to Lane’s other pieces is the night setting the sentimentalism, and the inclusion of people gathering in a social setting, as most of his works were much more formal and serene, portraying ships in a bay as a storm is approaching or an early harbor morning. Despite the individuality of this piece from Lane’s other works, it portrays characteristics such as the use of nautical and horizontal scenery, tranquility, luminism in the reflection of light on the clouds and the water from the moon and the bonfire, and particular detail to the surface of the sea.

Out of all of Lane’s paintings I viewed, this piece stood out the most from his usual paintings. Lane and many artists at the time did not depict night scenes, as they were usually more difficult to paint. However, I usually prefer the darker colors of nighttime scenery, and his usage of luminism with the moon and the bonfire give the painting a relaxing warmth. Another aspect of this painting that stood out to me (although he uses it in many of his other works) is the vantage point from the water instead of the shoreline, which makes the viewer feel as though they are floating on a ship within the cove witnessing it themselves. Lane’s greatest talent is in the way he places you into the painting and conveys emotions through his tonality and lighting. When looking at Fishing Party you can feel the atmosphere of the setting: the leisurely attitude of the people, the summer air, the gentle heat of the bonfire, and the calmness of the sea under the moonlight.

*This an other images available at: http://www.mfa.org/collections/object/fishing-party-34049

Bibliography

Blumberg, Naomi. Britannica Academic, s.v. Fitz Henry Lane, Accessed October 10, 2017, http://academic.eb.com.online.library.marist.edu/levels/collegiate/article/Fitz-Henry-Lane/344277.

Holdsworth, Sam. Fishing Party (1850) Commentary. Accessed October 10, 2017. http://fitzhenrylaneonline.org/catalog/entry.php?id=50

[i] Blumberg, Naomi. Britannica Academic, s.v. Fitz Henry Lane, Accessed October 10, 2017, http://academic.eb.com.online.library.marist.edu/levels/collegiate/article/Fitz-Henry-Lane/344277

[ii] Ibid.

[iii] Ibid.

[iv] Ibid.

[v] Ibid.

[vi] Holdsworth, Sam. Fishing Party (1850) Commentary. Accessed October 10, 2017. http://fitzhenrylaneonline.org/catalog/entry.php?id=50

[vii] Ibid.

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