Strikingly similar to “Seacoast” in the Addison Gallery of American Art, “Coming Squall (Nahant Beach with a Summer Shower)” in the collection of the Art Institute of Chicago, and its possible source, “Beach Scene with Rocks I” (64.599), “Beach Scene with Rocks II” is a dramatic...
Strikingly similar to “Seacoast” in the Addison Gallery of American Art, “Coming Squall (Nahant Beach with a Summer Shower)” in the collection of the Art Institute of Chicago, and its possible source, “Beach Scene with Rocks I” (64.599), “Beach Scene with Rocks II” is a dramatic maritime scene enhanced by a clear fidelity to nature. The panoramic horizontality of the work divides the painting into distinct regions of sky, sea and earth, while crashing waves and the evidence of a shipwreck salvage operation – with wheeled tracks in the sand and wooden debris on the shore – highlight the destructive beauty of the ocean. A gentleman with his dog fishes off the tip of a rocky outcropping, clearing clouds bespeak a passing storm, and a sailboat, its sails tinged pink by an unseen sun, counter the terrifying aspects of nature, speaking instead of recreation and man’s equilibrium with the forces around him. Known for his idealized landscapes of lakes and mountains, Doughty spent time painting in Nantasket, Cohasset and Nahant, Massachusetts from 1834-5. This period is the only time in his career that he created maritime paintings (with a few exceptions done later in life from sketches of this period). “Beach Scene with Rocks II” is clearly a view of Nahant Beach, on the North Shore of Massachusetts. Doughty has included important topographical markers, including Egg Rock, an island one mile off the shore that rises dramatically eighty feet above the sea and features distinctive rocky cliffs. At the time that this work was completed, the cliffs of Egg Rock made landing ships on the island difficult, but they were a boon to the nesting gulls that gave the island its name. The gulls are visible in Doughty’s scene, cavorting over the waves in the middle ground of the work. The Rock was also known to be treacherous to sailing vessels and it is possible that the debris seen scattered on the beach in this painting comes from such a shipwreck. Indeed, only five years earlier, a coffee laden schooner broke aground off Nahant and the entire crew was lost. Doughty was fascinated by such stories and he completed one painting, entitled “Shipwreck” (San Diego Museum of Art), while at Nahant in 1834. Whether “Beach Scene with Rocks II,” directly correlates to a shipwreck or not, Doughty was certainly captivated by the compositional challenges presented in rendering vast expanses of sea and sky as well as the challenge of depicting both the awesome power of nature and man’s mastery over it. Naomi H. Slipp
Lower left, on rock: T DOUGHTY/1835
The artist; possibly with Harvey Additon, Boston; to Maxim Karolik, Newport, R.I., 1948; to MFA, 1964, bequest of Maxim Karolik.
Bequest of Maxim Karolik