Anne Ramsdell Congdon (1873 - 1958)

Fishing Boats“, oil on board; signed lower left, Anne Congdon and dated indistinctly. 14 in. x 18 in.

In 1946 the Artist’s Association of Nantucket mounted a retrospective exhibition of five artists deemed to be “of national importance.” They were Henry S. Eddy, Edgar Jenney, Emerson Tuttle, Anne Ramsdell Congdon and Eastman Johnson. Today, Congdon’s expressive, wet-to-wet brushwork in heavy impastos, her brilliant, sometimes exaggerated color, and her impeccable massing of vibrant shapes eloquently express the voice of an artist of consequence.

Born in Nashua NH to Governor George A and Eliza Wilson Ramsdell, Anne Ramsdell Congdon began her art studies at the age of seven. Her endeavor continued at a private school in Worcester, MA, and as a young woman, continued at the Académie Delecluse in Paris. Back in the States again, she studied under Rhoda Holmes Nichols, an assistant of William Merritt Chase, in Chase’s summer art school near Ogunquit, Maine.

While her earliest work – through 1902 – was in watercolor, plein air painting became Congdon’s focus, and she began composing her palette in oils. Further studies with renowned American Impressionist painter, Charles Woodbury were definitive in the further development of Congdon’s painterly style. One of the most highly respected teaching artists of his day, Woodbury trained his students to see – that is, to strengthen their capacity for both observation and their memory. He challenged his students doggedly to be decisive; to paint motion. Congdon rose to the challenge.

Anne Ramsdell Congdon married Dr Charles E. Coffin, a Nantucket native who had a medical practice in Nashua. The couple summered on Nantucket, though it was not until years later that Congdon began to paint the Island in earnest, as she had put aside her easel altogether, in order to raise the couple’s two sons. Upon Dr. Congdon’s retirement in 1930, the family took up residence in Nantucket, where Anne R. Congdon soon established a studio in one of the cold-water shanties along Commercial Wharf. The shanties were suddenly being populated by artists, and Frank Swift Chase, whom the AAN described as “dean of Island painters and teachers” was leading the settlement. Amid a community of like minded artists, and under Chase’s influence, her canvases grew larger and her expression more exaggerated; reminiscent of Van Gogh and the Post Impressionists.

Working in the plein air tradition, Congdon painted en situ. From Woodbury, she’d learned to complete each painting in one sitting. If, when she returned to her studio the finished painting was not satisfactory, it was disposed of. Anne R Congdon painted – and celebrated – Nantucket’s wharves, her moors, her creeks, ponds and pastures.

Congdon’s paintings are among the permanent collections of the Nantucket Historical Association, The Artist’s Association of Nantucket, and the Egan Maritime Institute. She was an active member of the Artists Association, a leader in the development of Nantucket’s annual Sidewalk Art Show, as well as in various other civic volunteer capacities, including Trustee of the NHA and a co-founder of the Hospital Thrift Shop. Additionally, works have been exhibited in Manchester and Nashua, New Hampshire, Lowell, Mass., and at the Boston Society of Independent Artists.

by Carolyn Walsh (ref: Margaret Moore Booker, Picturing Nantucket; Michael A. Jehle, editor; Egan Maritime Institute, and Nantucket Historical Association.)

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