Fitz Henry Lane 1804-1865
- Fitz Henry Lane
The Old Mill at Goose Cove, Annisquam, Gloucester
- signed F.H. Lane and dated 1848, l.c.
- oil on canvas
Acquired from the above, circa 1965-70
For the greater part of his life, Fitz Henry Lane lived in the centuries-old coastal town of Gloucester, Massachusetts. The sea and local coastline of Cape Ann and its surrounding area would serve as key sources of inspiration throughout his career. Samuel Lane, a direct ancestor of Fitz Henry Lane, was one of the first of the Lane family to settle in Gloucester, as he was granted land in 1708 on the northern edge of Cape Ann, in an area known as Flatstone Cove, a prime fishing locale. Samuel was a blacksmith, and likely provided the utensils and tools the local fishermen needed for their trade. According to James Craig, "Flatstone Cove soon came to be known as Lane's Cove, and the tiny hamlet that emerged around it, Lanesville, both titles alluding to the family's seeming ownership of the inlet and their mounting privilege" (Fitz H. Lane, 2006, p. 17). By the early 1800s Fitz Henry's branch of the Lane family had moved closer to the commercial center of Gloucester on the southern side of the Cape. Though Lane grew up closer to Gloucester proper, his subjects include various locales around the entire Cape Ann area. Goose Cove, for instance, is a small community in northern Gloucester between Annisquam and Riverdale Station.
Lane started his training in 1832 as an apprentice to the lithographer William Pendleton in Boston. By the start of the next decade, however, he had developed a reputation in the area as a marine painter, and by 1846, he ceased lithographic work to devote himself to his oil painting. John Wilmerding writes that "sometime during the winter of 1847, with his career as a painter firmly underway, Lane decided to return to Gloucester permanently ... with its smooth curving beaches and striking promontories" (Fitz Hugh Lane, 1971, pp. 36-37).
The focal point of The Old Mill at Goose Cove is a mill at the edge of the pond, likely the local sawmill as implied by the whole and halved logs resting on shore. Though the mill and its workers indicate a human presence, the dense forests adjacent to the mill and off in the distance suggest an area abundant in natural resources. Lane does not portray man as a destructive force, but offers the viewer a vision of man co-existing in harmony with nature, a common theme in Romantic landscape painting of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. In The Old Mill at Goose Cove, the artist follows these Romantic ideals through a careful layering of space. His ordered composition follows the path of the water through a peaceful pond in the foreground, to a bubbling stream in the middleground as it flows out to the cove in the distance. Lane's talent in transposing the light of the changing times of day is evident in the gentle glow of the clouds as they reflect the light of the sun. The artist's refined sense of color, carefully controlled nuances of tinted light, and the distilled order between man and nature, all present in this early work, foreshadow the elements that would come to define Lane's particular pictorial vision.