Salem on Canvas: the 1920s

Exactly 90 and 91 years ago today the American artist Felicie Waldo Howell (1897-1968) opened successive exhibitions at the Macbeth Gallery in New York City, where all the best “modern” American artists showed.  Both exhibitions featured Salem scenes prominently, indeed, very prominently.  The first, Old Salem Doorways (January 3-17, 1921), was exclusively devoted to the architecture of Salem, while the second, New England Streets (January 3-23,1922), featured the streets of Salem alongside those of other New England towns and cities.  Here are two reproduction images of paintings in the first show, depicting the entrances to the Assembly House and the Ropes Mansion.

I don’t know a great deal about Howell but from what I could ascertain she had a rich and interesting life, occupied by her art throughout. She was born in Hawaii, but spent most of her life on the east coast.  Her first marriage, to the wealthy yachtsman (and navigator) George Mixter, enabled her to travel widely (and in very advantageous circles) and paint many maritime scenes.  She seems to have had a penchant for coastlines (Maine and Atlantic islands, the White Cliffs of Dover), bridges (the Golden Gate, Brooklyn) and street scenes (New York, Gloucester, Salem).  A few years after her seemingly-successful exhibitions at the Macbeth Gallery, she returned to Salem to paint several views of the city’s Tercentennial celebrations, including the celebratory scene on Chestnut Street below (from the digital archives of Christies, where it sold in 2006 for $7200).  Seldom do you see such a colorful, impressionistic view of The Street.

Felicie Waldo Howell (1897-1968), Salem’s 300th Anniversary, Chestnut Street, June 1926.

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