DAYS LUMBERYARD STUDIOS 1915-1972 opened at ACME Fine Art, Boston. On view through 22 August, 2009. This comprehensive exhibition features work spanning almost one hundred years that has been completed by artists who once had studios at Days Lumberyard. A broad and eclectic mix of artwork in a variety of media by over thirty artists will be on view. The gallery has mounted a large group exhibition of artwork by more than thirty of the artists who worked at Days Lumberyard during the previous century. The group of works that will make up the exhibition come from private collections, the estates of artists, from our colleagues at cooperating galleries, and from ACME Fine Art inventory. A handful of artworks are also being lent by local museums from their permanent collections.
HIGGINS WHARF 1947 Ross Moffett, 1888-1971 oil on canvas 26 x 40″
The Days Lumberyard Studios in Provincetown Massachusetts ranks among the most important incubators for artists of the twentieth century. Two of that century’s most influential teachers – Charles Webster Hawthorne and Hans Hofmann – and many of their students, worked in studios there. In fact, more than one hundred artists had studios at the lumberyard and/or the adjacent Brewster Street annex between 1915 and 1972. Some of the most highly regarded American artists of the time maintained studios at Days for at least one season. Among them were: Edwin Dickinson, Ross Moffett, Vaclav Vytlacil, Mercedes Matter, Perle Fine, Myron Stout, Fritz Bultman, George McNeil, Robert De Niro Sr., John Grillo, Peter Busa, Robert Motherwell, Helen Frankenthaler, Ed Corbett, Lester Johnson, and Jan Muller, and numerous others.
Accounts differ with respect to the date that artists began using the studios at Days Lumberyard. Records indicate that Frank Days Sr. acquired the 24 Pearl Street property in 1911. The first evidence of studios on the property as indicated in town tax records was 1916; however, Ross Moffett’s account claims that he and Henry Sutter were the first to occupy studios there in 1914. Vaclav Vytlacil has been quoted as saying that he paid five dollars per month for his studio rental at Days in 1914 as well. Other early occupants included Charles Hawthorne, Edwin Dickinson, and John Frazier. While artists had discovered the natural beauty of Cape Cod and appreciated the special qualities of the sunlight long before Days Lumberyard came into being, it now seems clear that the development of Days Lumberyard Studios as affordable artists’ studios was crucial in sponsoring the collegial atmosphere that allowed this community of artists to flourish on the outer Cape, thereby allowing Provincetown to become one of the premier and art historically significant Art Colonies in the United States.
In 1978 the Provincetown Art Association and Museum mounted an exhibition titled Days Lumberyard Studios. The accompanying catalogue contained an essay by Ben Brooks, a Fine Arts Work Center writing Fellow in 1975-76 and 1976-77, for which the author interviewed a number of the featured artists in order to provide historical context for the exhibition. Mr. Brooks himself describes the early community as, ”small and… dominated by Charles Hawthorne. Moffett and Kaeslau and Dickinson were all his students. They were also serious painters, and dedicated. Only a dedicated painter would have lived at the Lumberyard.” Edwin Dickinson is quoted as describing his studio at #2 Days Lumberyard as “just a shell of a building.” When he moved to #10 in the Fall of 1915, Dickinson described a process whereby he “had to seal the entire interior of the studio –floor walls and ceiling- with brown building paper, just leaving enough light to paint.” Frank Days provided small kerosene stoves for heat in the Fall and Winter, as well as a solo shared toilet that many an artist has been quick to remember.
The 1920s saw the expansion of the studio complex through the construction of another studio building – often referred to as the “annex” – at 4 Brewster Street. Artists who worked there over the years included George Yater, Reeves Euler, Robert Douglas Hunter, Seong Moy, Jim Forsberg, Gil Franklin, and Robert Motherwell.
Hans Hofmann’s arrival in Provincetown in the late 1930s was more than a harbinger of change. Along with the entourage of students and epinominous School of Fine Art that he brought, Hofmann solidified the position of the modern avant-garde in the town.
Artists who were associated with Hofmann as well as Days Lumberyard, and will be featured in ACME Fine Art’s upcoming exhibition include: Fritz Bultman, William Freed, Lillian Orlowsky, Peter Busa, John Grillo, Myron Stout, Perle Fine, Robert De Niro Sr., George McNeil, Mercedes Matter, Jan Muller, James Gahagan, Miles Forst, and Myrna Harrison.
In 1951 the Days family sold the studio complex to Joe Oliver and Manuel Raymond. Oliver and Raymond immediately began much needed maintenance and renovations. They also undertook renovations of the original barn on the property, which became in 1961, Robert Motherwell and then wife Helen Frankenthaler’s studios. Robert Motherwell’s reminiscences of his experiences during his Days Lumberyard days were published in the same exhibition catalogue that was referenced earlier. The title of his essay was Provincetown & Days Lumberyard: A Memoir. In it Motherwell said: “Either one or two summers (I forget which.) I had a studio at 4 Brewster Street, with the kindly Eulers as landlords. For the summers of 1961 and 1962, Helen Frankenthaler (to whom I was then married) and I rented the main barn in Days Lumberyard. In those years, the huge floors were undivided, and perfectly suited for the enormous formats of the paintings that we were both accustomed to. The barn was beautiful to behold then, shingled, with arched barn doors on each floor… windows on all sides, with the radiant summer light of Provincetown that rivals the Greek Islands, because I have always supposed, like them Provincetown is on a narrow spit of land surrounded by sea…. People tend to forget that Provincetown is (roughly) on the forty two degree meridian, as is Barcelona and Opporto and Cannes and Rome… and Macedonia and Istanbul… a distinctly warm southern light compared to Northern Europe, a light as seductive to painters in the modernist tradition as geometry was to the ancient Greek philosophers and musicians…. At any rate, the Days barn was filled with lovely light, and with clean, open, large, aged space. In 1962 I painted there one of my finest series of paintings called ‘Elegy to the Spanish Republic’….”
About a decade later, in 1972, the Fine Arts Work Center acquired the Days Lumberyard property, and to this day many of the original studios continue to be used as living and work spaces by artists who have been awarded fellowships by the Work Center. The Fine Arts Work Center itself was founded in 1968 by a group of distinguished Provincetown writers and visual artists a number of whom had studios in the original Days Lumberyard. They Include Gil Franklin, Philip Malicoat, Fritz Bultman, and Robert Motherwell. The Fine Arts Work Center is a non-profit organization dedicated to continuing the same tradition and spirit of artistic creativity that was engendered by the artists of Days Lumberyard so many years ago. The Work Center has awarded over 800 fellowships to emerging writers and visual artists over the past forty years.
ACME Fine Art’s DAYS LUMBERYARD STUDIOS 1915-1972 will be on view at the gallery until 22 August 2009. ACME Fine Art will donate a portion of all sales during this period to the Fine Arts Work Center.
For further information about this exhibition or other gallery events, please contact the gallery at 617.585.9551, or via e-mail at [email protected] .
ACME Fine Art and Design is located at 38 Newbury Street\, Boston, Massachusetts, 02116. Gallery hours are 11:00 to 5:30 Tuesday through Saturday. Website : http://www.acmefineart.com/index.htm