John George Brown (American, 1831-1913)
Hoisting the Sail
Signed 'J.G. Brown N.A.' bottom center left (on the boat's hull), oil on canvas
23 x 15 in. (58.4 x 38.1cm)
(Possibly) John G. Brown studio sale, 1892, no. 6 (as Hoisting the Sail).
Private Collection, Pennsylvania.
Martha Hoppin, The World of J.G. Brown, Chameleon Books, Chesterfield, Massachusetts, 2010, Chapter 5 "Grand Manan Island," note 7.
We wish to thank Dr. Martha Hoppin for kindly confirming the authenticity of the present work, and for her kind assistance in cataloguing it.
In the summers of 1877 and 1878, John George Brown traveled to the remote island of Grand Manan, just off the coast of Maine in the Bay of Fundy, New Brunswick, Canada. There, he executed about twenty-five recorded paintings, all consistent in size, execution and subject, which deeply impressed the critics for their freshness and "absence of affection." During Brown's time, the island was already a popular site for artists, including Frederic Church who was amongst the first painters to discover and record its abrupt shoreline and treacherous tides. But instead of marveling at its unusual landscapes, Brown preferred to concentrate on the local fishermen, recording their harsh and dangerous labor, either at sea or in the harbor. As he simply explained to an interviewer, "I desired to paint some Grand Manan fishermen, and I went to Grand Manan and painted them from the life - their fish, their clothes, their boats." The present work is an excellent example from the artist's sojourn on Grand Manan island and perfectly transcribes the hardiness Brown sought to capture in his models. Depicted here is a lone sailor standing in his dory. Simply dressed, yet with an elegant hat on his head, he smokes his pipe, while carefully pulling the sail in order to change the boat's direction. His fierce gaze, either focused on the technical procedure or worryingly set on the ominous clouds above his head, reflects his imposing stature. Brown here presents a certain vision of manhood to the viewer. The sailor's rugged, yet impressionable, appearance is echoed by the vigorous brushwork and palette of fierce blues and oranges the artist employed - a novelty in Brown's œuvre that still contributes to its timeless appeal today.