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Rock-Bound: Fitz Henry Lane in 1862

Robbins, N; (2021) Rock-Bound: Fitz Henry Lane in 1862. Oxford Art Journal , 44 (1) pp. 105-123. 10.1093/oxartj/kcaa029. Green open access

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During three weeks in January 1862, the painter Fitz Henry Lane (1804–1865) completed Stage Fort across Gloucester Harbor in his granite home and studio in Gloucester, Massachusetts (Fig. 1). The flat plane of Gloucester’s Outer Harbour is enclosed by the shoreline curving around the painting’s right edge, culminating in the rocky promontory known as Stage Fort. In the foreground, two men talk beside a battered canoe, while our attention is directed by the mast lying on the beach to a small sloop being poled to shore, and, further out, to a schooner at anchor and to the lighthouse at the harbour’s farthest edge. ‘The sea is calm’, a Gloucester journalist wrote of the painting upon viewing it in Lane’s studio: ‘the mellow sunset light throws a charm over the whole scene, mirroring in the glassy deep the rock-bound shore, and vessels on its surface’. Each object – whether body, ship, rope, or rock – has found its place. This sense of serene equanimity has shaped Lane’s historical reputation ever since, in the mid-twentieth century, he was re-introduced into the narrative of nineteenth-century American landscape painting. In his formative 1954 article on Lane and his contemporary painters, curator John I. H. Baur drew upon Henry James’s short story ‘A Landscape Painter’ (1866) to find language for this painterly quietude – quoting a passage in which James’s protagonist-artist looks upon ‘deep, translucent water’ in which ‘mossy rocks doubled themselves without a flaw in the clear, dark water’. The narrator identifies in the landscape before him ‘a lightness, a brilliance, a crudity, which allows perfect liberty of self-assertion to each object in the landscape’.

Type: Article
Title: Rock-Bound: Fitz Henry Lane in 1862
Open access status: An open access version is available from UCL Discovery
DOI: 10.1093/oxartj/kcaa029
Publisher version: https://doi.org/10.1093/oxartj/kcaa029
Language: English
Additional information: This version is the author accepted manuscript. For information on re-use, please refer to the publisher’s terms and conditions.
UCL classification: UCL
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL SLASH
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL SLASH > Faculty of S&HS
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL SLASH > Faculty of S&HS > Dept of History of Art
URI: https://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/10126044
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