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Historic New England participates in Cape Ann Plein Air Festival

October 4, 2016

Captain Oliver Lane House

New England artists who follow the many plein air painting competitions all across the country are excited to participate in the first such event in the region. The Cape Ann Plein Air Festival runs from Monday, October 10 (Columbus Day), through Sunday, October 16, when forty juried artists will compete for combined prize money of $16,000. Sand dunes and salt marshes, woodlands and meadows, harbor scenes and rocky shores; the incredibly varied scenery and the quality of light on Cape Ann have always made it a destination for artists who paint “en plein air," a French phrase that means “in the open air," or literally “in full air."

Sometimes known as “the other Cape” in Massachusetts, Cape Ann is the peninsula just north of Boston comprising the towns of Gloucester, Rockport, Essex, and Manchester-by-the-Sea. It has hosted some of the most famous American artists of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. Winslow Homer, Edward Hopper, John Singer Sargent, Childe Hassam, and Fitz Henry Lane, just to name a few, are well known for their outdoor views of Gloucester harbor, Magnolia, Annisquam, and Singing Beach. Artist colonies and member associations dating to 1850 are still thriving on Cape Ann and continue to attract some of the most prestigious names in the art world today.

Although the chance to compete for the big prize money will be limited to the forty artists chosen out of more than one hundred applicants, there are many other activities open to all painters and spectators during the week, including a “quick-draw” competition in Manchester-by-the-Sea and the annual “wet paint” event in Essex.

Historic New England’s two properties on Cape Ann will host artist demonstrations as part of the festival week. On Tuesday, October 11, join David Curtis at Cogswell’s Grant in Essex. On Thursday, October 13, Geoffrey Chalmers leads a demonstration at Beauport, the Sleeper-McCann House, in Gloucester. Both one-hour demonstrations begin at noon, and are free to the public; please note that seating is limited and is first-come, first served.  

Cogswell’s Grant is a frequent subject chosen by local plein air artists, and offers several public programs for painters throughout the season. Artist Marianne Thompson offers a drop-in painting workshop during the Cape Ann Plein Air Festival on Thursday, October 13, a second workshop on Sunday, October 23. All plein air programs at Cogswell’s Grant include a brief tour of the museum, where you can see this painting of Captain Oliver Lane’s house in Annisquam, painted by Cape Ann artist Alfred J. Wiggin in October of 1859.

Visit for a calendar of festival activities.


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Historic New England participates in Cape Ann Plein Air Festival