FITZ HENRY LANE (1805–1864)
View of Boston Harbor, about 1850–55
Oil on canvas, 12 x 17 1/4 in.
EX COLL.: descended in the family of the original owner, Gloucester area, Cape Ann, Massachusetts, until 1991; to [Hirschl & Adler Galleries, New York]; to private collection, 1993 until the present
The series of paintings of Boston Harbor that Fitz Henry Lane executed in the mid-1850s reveals the mastery that the artist had achieved by that time, when his style had evolved from an almost folk-art linearity into the expansive, light-filled compositions characteristic of his fully developed style. View of Boston Harbor counts among these relatively rare, extraordinary views that mark the refinement of Lane's mature style.
View of Boston Harbor has some of the atmospheric effects—the horizontal composition, and the air of quietude— that are among the hallmarks of the luminist style. A poetry of silence pervades the best of these works, a mood this picture shares with two similar views, both titled Boston Harbor at Sunset (National Gallery of Art, pp. 50–51 nos. 24, 25 illus in color). Here, the sense of stillness is heightened through the effects of light and atmosphere in the sun setting behind the clouds, the dark shadows cast upon the water in the foreground, and the sails silhouetted against the evening sky. Charles Bullfinch’s gold-domed State House of 1798, visible at the center horizon declares the importance of Boston’s presence. The two principal ships in this picture are a frigate, at left, and a smaller brig, at right. Both are American naval vessels as evidenced by the rows of gun ports.