The Tides of Provincetown: A Legacy Beyond the Bridges
By: Elise Hugus, May 23, 2012
Courtesy CCMA - Jackson Pollock's 'T.P.'s Boat' demonstrates a style he may have picked up from his teacher, Martha's Vineyard artist Thomas Hart Benton.
Art buffs on the Cape don’t have to cross the bridge to see works by Jackson Pollock, Andy Warhol or Mark Rothko this summer.
Works by these titans of modern art—as well as lesser-known but just as pivotal artists—are featured in the Tides of Provincetown at the Cape Cod Art Museum in Dennis, featuring a retrospective of America’s “oldest continuous arts colony” from 1899 to today.
From Marcus Waterman and Charles Hawthorne, who founded the Cape Cod School of Art in 1899 to the Modernists of the ‘20s who challenged old-school notions of American art and abstract painter Hans Hofmann’s Summer School of Art in the 30s, Provincetown has attracted several generations of artists on the cutting edge of the art world.
Over 100 examples of Provincetown’s influence in the Tides show are juxtaposed with the 45-piece showcase, 200 Years of Cape Cod Art, which includes works by John Enneking, Henry Hensche and Hans Hofmann.
Microcosm of the art world
The two exhibits, which run concurrently through August 26 demonstrate “the synergy between 200 years of Cape Cod art and the men and women from all over the world who studied in Provincetown,” said Elizabeth Ives-Hunter, executive director of the CCMA.
That synergy includes the relationship between Thomas Hart Benton and his student, Jackson Pollack. Benton’s painting of a hay harvest on Martha’s Vineyard depicts abstract cloud forms and swirling haystacks, a precursor to the Abstract Expressionism so well represented in Pollock’s work. (Pollock spent summers in Provincetown in the post-World War II years.)
See for yourself...
Tides of Provincetown & 200 Years of Cape Cod Art
On display through August 26 at the Cape Cod Museum of Art, 60 Hope Lane, Dennis
Memorial Day - Columbus Day
Monday - Saturday: 10 am - 5 pm
Thursday: 10 am - 8 pm
Sunday: noon - 5 pm
Guided Docent Tours:
Thursday at 11 am and 2 pm
Saturday at 11 am and 1 pm
Sunday at 1 pm
Adults: $8; members and children under 18 are free
Admission by donation all day on Thursdays, 10 am - 8 pm.
Enjoy a guided tour with the museum’s curator, Michael Giaquinto on Thursday afternoons at 2 PM on June 7, July 12 and August 9.
On Thursday, June 14 at 2:30 PM, Deborah Forman, author of the two-volume set Perspectives on the Provincetown Art Colony, will give a lecture, followed by a demonstration of the artists’ influence on American pop music by music critic Michael Lasser. Admission to this wine & cheese event is $40 or $30 for CCMA members.
A bit more circuitously, Ives-Hunter pointed out that Dana Levin’s “Sisyphus” in the CCMA’s permanent collection demonstrates techniques she learned in Florence from Daniel Graves, who studied with Richard Lack, a student of Ives Gammell, who studied with Hawthorne in Provincetown.
“It’s important to look at Provincetown not only for what was produced there, but also what came out of it,” she said.
A living legacy
Initially attracted by the town’s famous light and infamous tolerance for artists, Provincetown’s relatively easy access from Europe, Boston and New York and cheap rents made it a destination not only for visual artists but also writers such as Eugene O’Neill, Tennessee Williams and Norman Mailer.
In 2010, the National Trust for Historic Preservation recognized the town as the oldest continuously thriving arts colony in the US.
As is demonstrated in the exhibit, Provincetown artists continue to break new ground across a range of styles, from the Provincetown Art Association to the Fine Arts Work Center and independent galleries.
Tides of Provincetown was curated by the New Britain Museum of American Art in New Britain, Connecticut nd has appeared in museums in Wichita, Kansas and Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania—a fact that shows how high a regard Provincetown has in the art world beyond the bridges.
“Those us who live and work on Cape tend to take [Provincetown] for granted,” said Ives-Hunter. “In 2012, P-town continues to be seedbed [for art], not just for Cape Cod but for the entire country.”