Hawthorne learned from the quality of the Old Masters and turned to the Provincetown fishing folk for subject matter, creating stoic representations of Portuguese fishing families both somber in tone and dignified in composition, often with a figure directly engaging the viewer with a bold stare. These enigmatic stares are also seen in paintings of mothers and children that he began to explore following the birth of his only child Joseph in 1908.
More information about this painting...
Painted around 1916-1917, The Story Book is a masterful representation of Hawthorne’s work following his return from Italy, demonstrating both his strength in color and composition, as well as his desire to render universal themes using the humble people of his community. A number of Hawthorne’s maternal subjects seem to contain a spiritual undercurrent, perhaps the result of seeing so many religious works by the European masters, and in this piece one cannot help but meditate upon the mother’s beatific face and the soft, halo-like interpretation of the child’s hair. Nestled close to his mother, the child’s wide blue eyes meet the viewer’s gaze and seem to betray a wisdom and depth beyond his years. Perhaps he is thinking of his father out at sea, or perhaps he is imagining a passage in the story being read to him or simply looking at the viewer who’s intruded on their private moment. We bring our own experiences when considering the underlying narrative being spun by Hawthorne, and therein lies the potency of his stirring canvases.
William Macbeth Gallery, New York
To Vose Galleries, Boston, inventory no. 4358, January 1917
To private collection, February 1919
Eventually to Sotheby’s New York, May 1986 sale
To Vose Galleries, Boston, inventory no. 28357, June 1986
To collection of Abbot W. and Marcia L. Vose, Boston, Massachusetts, December 1986 to present
1). (torn) –ing Institute / of Art / Youngstown, Ohio / Picture No. 2 / Box No. 4 / Pictures in Box 2 (Mahoning Institute of Art, later named the Butler Institute for American Art)
2). Previous Vose Galleries label, inventory no. 28357
3). Exhibited: “Founders of an Art Colony: The Beginnings of the PAA&M” / July 14 – October 29, 1989 / Provincetown Art Association and Museum, Provincetown, MA / Artist: Charles W. Hawthorne / Title and Date of Work: The Story Book, c. 1917 / Medium and Dimensions: Oil on panel, 30” x 25 ½” / Lender: Mr. & Mrs. Abbot W. Vose
4). Receipt attached verso for PAA&M exhibition above
5). On exhibition at the / Cahoon Museum of American Art / Cotuit, MA / Tell Me a Story – Chapter 2 / Narrative Art of the Cape and Islands / July 17 through September 15, 2001 / The Storybook 1917 / Charles W. Hawthorne (1872-1930) / Oil on canvas over board
1). Exhibition of American Masters, Vose Galleries, Boston, January 4 – 22, 1917, No. 1 C. W. Hawthorne The Story Book
2). Paintings by Modern American Figure Painters, Vose Galleries, Boston, September 1917, No. 5 Charles W. Hawthorne, The Story Book
3). Founders of an Art Colony: The Beginnings of the Provincetown Art Association and Museum, Provincetown, Massachusetts, July 14 – October 29, 1989, The Story Book
4). Tell Me a Story – Chapter 2: Narrative Art of the Cape and Islands, Cahoon Museum of American Art, Cotuit, Massachusetts, July 17 – September 15, 2001, The Story Book