Provincetown, 1916 Film
A story in the New York Times about painter Charles Webster Hawthorne, his oldest living model and his art school barn, prompted us to contact the current owners of Hawthorne's barn, Joshua Prager and Ricky Opaterny, about Northeast Historic Film's film containing footage of Hawthorne teaching his art students. Prager and Opaterny have formed a nonprofit organization to support the preservation of the barn, which was built over 100 years ago and used for most of that time for painting classes. It is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Today we talked about film preservation--as the moving image record of Hawthorne and other artists such as Hans Hoffman, of Provincetown's people and landscape, will be part of the story of the barn going forward.
In the New York Times story, Doris Bryant Makas, who was born in 1910, remembers going with her mother to sit for Charles Webster Hawthorne. Doris's daughter, Elaine, describes the painter's context:
Provincetown had a large Portuguese immigrant population back then, and Hawthorne mostly hired Portuguese models,” Elaine Makas recalled. “But it’s likely he knew my grandmother and her hardships at the time. She was desperate for money, and he would have known she was a tough, single mother and maybe that’s why he called it ‘Motherhood Triumphant.’The film identifies an elderly man as "A type of Portuguese fisherman that is fast passing," a following scene, "Overhauling the nets," shows three men working on fish nets in town.
Martha McNamara, Ph.D., Wellesley College, director of the New England Arts and Architecture program, is responsible for lectures, workshops and symposia as well as teaching. She is an American Studies scholar with a regional specialty in the arts and architecture of New England, teaching a seminar this spring on that subject. She is interested in the 1916 Metro Pictures travelogue. In conversation with our CLIR visiting team, McNamara said,
It's this incredible clip of Provincetown at the turn of the century with great footage of the plein air arts school out on the Cape run by Charles Webster Hawthorne. The rest of the school is even more captivating to me and more helpful for my class this spring because it really gets at this question of how New England is represented. There is an aerial shot of Provincetown with schooners in the harbor, crooked narrow streets, these characters, old people in old clothing. It depicts New England as a bygone place. The idea of New England as a quaint place that time has forgotten is a generator of the tourism industry. This one clip brings it all together, the vision of New England as a backwater, the artist come up from New York runs a plein air school: the creation of the image and the image creators.