Located 10 miles off the coast of Maine, the remote and rustic island of Monhegan has drawn artists from around the world for over 150 years. Appreciated for its natural windswept beauty, quaint fishing village, high granite cliffs, and rocky beaches, Monhegan—known as “The Artist’s Island”—has become the home of one of America’s best-known and enduring art colonies. In an online exhibition while Connecticut's New Britain Museum of American Art is temporarily closed, The Art and Artists of Monhegan Island displays some of the most iconic and intimate scenes of this beloved destination, and is derived exclusively from the NBMAA’s extensive Charles J. and Irene Hamm Collection of Coastal Art.
The origins of the art colony on Monhegan date to the mid-19th century; by 1890, it was firmly established. Hudson River School painter Aaron Draper Shattuck was the first recorded artist to encounter the island while on a tour of lighthouses along the Maine coast. In a 1858 letter, he described that "Monhegan Island has some wonderful things about it… beautiful coves and grand cliffs rising high out of the sea.” By the mid-1890s, landscape painters ventured to the island, including William Trost Richards, Alfred T. Bricher, and Samuel Peter Rolt Triscott, whose refined watercolors, featured in this gallery, capture the extraordinary natural beauty of this picturesque island.
In 1903, celebrated modern artists Robert Henri, George Bellows, and Rockwell Kent worked together on Mohegan Island, applying gestural bravura to their compositions—examples of which are part of the museum's Charles J. and Irene Hamm Gallery. Between 1903 and 1918, these artists were joined by American Impressionists and traditional marine painters, culminating in an especially active period known as Monhegan’s Golden Age of Art. A rich tradition of regionalist painting emerged between the 1920s and the second World War, represented by the work of artists Andrew Winter and Jay Connaway, who each lived year-round on the island for several decades, as well as Abraham J. Bogdanove, who spent long seasons there each year. Compelling views by Winter, Connaway, and Bogdanove can all be found in this gallery, revealing the visual drama of Monhegan’s cliffs and surf.
Artists still populate the ledges, bluffs, and trails of Monhegan Island, capturing views of Fish Beach, Pulpit Rock, Lobster Cove, and the cliffs of Blackhead. The island remains a refuge for all those seeking to find—and capture on canvas and paper—the sublime power of land and sea. Here's a Virtual Visit: View highlights of the exhibition here.