Artist Trivia: Gertrude Horsford Fiske

Gertrude Fiske, The Carpenter
Gertrude Fiske, The Carpenter, circa 1922, Oil on canvas, Gift of the estate of Miss Gertrude Fiske, 1966.1529

Art Trivia: Who is this artist?

This artist is born under the first sign of the zodiac! Before becoming an artist, this person excelled in an unusual field of sports. The subjects of their paintings ranged from figurative to still lives and landscapes. Born in a New England seacoast city, the father of the family was a prominent attorney. They enrolled in the city’s museum school of fine arts where they studied with well-known artists of the time. They also studied in Maine, were associated with the Boston Museum School early in the 20th century, and studied with Edmund C. Tarbell, Frank Benson, and Philip Hale, and with Charles H. Woodbury in Ogunquit, Maine. Their early work was influenced by instruction, but later they branched out into other areas. They were responsible for co-founding several regional art guilds and associations.  They were the first of their gender to be appointed to the state Art Commission.

They were known for their subjects of depicting women in traditional scenes, with a sense of power, not fragility. They also portrayed classic New Englanders working in various professions. Their style became popular in the 1920s. Additional subject matter included landscapes, seascapes, stone quarries, and a naval shipyard. Later paintings included depictions of the ‘new’ technologies of the time that have since become obsolete and are ubiquitous. They received an impressive award for their work and died in the seventh decade of the 20th century. 

Answer: Gertrude Horsford Fiske

Gertrude Horsford Fiske was an American visual artist, figure painter, still life painter and landscape painter. She was the first woman appointed to the Massachusetts State Art Commission in 1929.

Fiske was the daughter of a prominent local lawyer. Before becoming an artist, she was a successful golfer. Fiske enrolled at the Boston Museum School sometime around 1904 where she studied with Edmund C. Tarbell, Frank Benson, and Philip Hale. She also studied with Charles H. Woodbury in Ogunquit, Maine, and incorporated his recommendation to “paint in verbs not in nouns.” Her early work was greatly influenced by this aesthetic, but she later moved in other directions. Fiske was a co-founder of the Guild of Boston Artists in 1914 and of the Boston Society of Etchers in 1917. In 1928 she was also a co-founder of the Ogunquit Art Association.

She was known for her strong depictions of women in traditional scenes, such as women in interiors, with power, instead of gentility and fragility. She often portrayed distinctive New England characters (including florists, craftsmen, postmen, fishermen, and clerics), in a style popular throughout the 1920s. Fiske also painted landscapes, including Revere Beach, a stone quarry in Weston, MA, and the Navy Yard in Portsmouth, NH. Later works included the introduction and adoption of modern technologies such as the telephone and automobile. Her sense of composition was considered “harmonious” and “warm.” The Carpenter won the Thomas B. Clarke prize from the National Academy of Design. She was born on April 16, 1878, in Boston and died in 1961 in Weston, Massachusetts.

Gertrude Fiske, The Carpenter, circa 1922, Oil on canvas, Gift of the estate of Miss Gertrude Fiske, 1966.1529

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