E. Francis (Frank) Carson (1881-1968)

E. Francis (Frank) Carson (1881-1968)

Born near the turn of the century in Waltham, Massachusetts, just north of Boston, E. Francis (Frank) Carson grew up in a period of artistic revolution in America, when new art styles and philosophies were emerging across the nation. His education was comprised of multiple art schools, beginning with the Massachusetts Normal Art School in Boston, then the Commonwealth Art Colony in Boothbay, Maine, the Fenway Art School, and finally the Art Students League in New York City. His creative development occurred during the transition from Impressionism to Post Impressionism, thus his style ranges from the soft tones and gentle brushwork of his forbears to more modern, almost expressionist renderings, with lively, uninhibited use of color.

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Carson’s bold palette, vivacious brushstrokes, and espousal of artistic freedom and expression made him a favorite in American art circles when he launched his career in the late teens. He held his first solo exhibition at the Petrus Stuyvesant Club in New York in 1917, and in 1918 he founded the Provincetown Art School, where he taught until 1933. His paintings captured the joyous and carefree nature of life in Provincetown, secluded at the edge of the Massachusetts’ Cape Cod and enveloped by the sparkling ocean, sandy dunes, and summer sun.

Carson exhibited annually at the Provincetown Art Association, and was an editor of the Lorelei, a local journal of art and letters from the writers and painters of Provincetown. After closing his school in 1933, he spent much of his time over the next thirty years in Boston and became a more active participant in exhibitions at the Boston Society of Independent Artists. It was during this time that he was introduced to the Four Boston Painters – Maurice Prendergast, Carl Gordon Cutler, Charles Hovey Pepper, and E. Ambrose Webster – whose affinity for Modernism influenced his own style. He was especially inspired by the color theory of Webster, who had also established an art school in Provincetown which closed upon his passing in 1935. Carson even followed in Webster’s footsteps by traveling to Bermuda, where he painted and taught while avoiding the dreaded New England winters.

Carson held solo exhibitions at the Washington Art Club at the University of Washington, the Copley Society in Boston, and the Brooklyn Museum, and he participated in group exhibitions at the Provincetown Art Association between 1919 and 1934, the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts between 1919 and 1931, the Berkeley League of Fine Arts, the Boston Art Club, the Buffalo Fine Arts Academy, the Newport Art Association, the Detroit Institute of Art, the Gloucester Society of Artists, the Boston Society of Independent Artists, the Toledo Museum of Art, the Providence Art Club, the Providence Watercolor Club, and the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston. The Provincetown Art Association and Museum held a retrospective exhibition of his work in 1997, and today his works are held in many private collections and in the collection of the Colby College Museum of Art in Waterville, Maine.

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