James Fitzgerald (1899-1971)

James Fitzgerald (1899-1971)

Boston-born James Fitzgerald served in the Marine Corps during World War I, after which he pursued his interest in the fine arts, first enrolling at the Massachusetts School of Art and later the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston. In 1923, while on break from school, he joined the crew of the Elizabeth Howard on a trip from Gloucester to the Grand Banks in search of halibut and quickly learned the ropes of commercial fishing. This firsthand knowledge would come in handy following his initial trip to Maine’s Monhegan Island in 1924, where he was inspired by the hardy sailors and lobstermen who served as the backbone of the community.  

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Fitzgerald went to sea again in 1928, this time aboard the Dorothy Luckenbach. He worked his way to the West Coast, with Alaska as his planned destination, but settled in the California city of Monterey, where he married, built a home and studio, and soon became affiliated with the Cannery Row group, featuring literary and intellectual heavyweights such as John Steinbeck and Joseph Campbell. Fitzgerald joined and exhibited with the California Watercolor Society and the Carmel Art Association through the 1930s, and continued making return trips back east before moving permanently to Monhegan in 1943. Sadly, the isolation of island life affected his marriage, resulting in the couple’s divorce one year later, yet Fitzgerald stayed on and became a mainstay among the thriving artists’ colony. Drawn to Monhegan’s docks and bluffs, he would spend hours mentally capturing a scene that caught his interest before translating his observations back in his studio, using elemental shape, color, and mass.

In the 1950s, Fitzgerald purchased a home and studio built by Rockwell Kent forty years earlier, however the urge to travel never quite left him. He made trips to Europe during the 1960s, with stays in London, Wales and Ireland, and eventually passed away on the Aran Islands off the Irish coast in 1971. Vose Galleries held solo exhibitions of Fitzgerald’s work in the 1940s.


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