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For 29 Years    Saturdays, from Memorial Day Weekend through early December, fifteen-plus  auctions offer Antiques, Marine and Fine Art from distinguished estates & consignors across the US.

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Fine Art  Paintings, sculpture and functional art of the 18th-20th C. including original paintings by George Gardner Fish,  Antonio Jacobsen,  James E. Buttersworth,  Thomas Willis, William P. Stubbs, Jack L. Gray, and Richard Hayley Lever.

Nantucket Artists  Ralph Cahoon, Anne Ramsdell Congdon, James Walter Folger, Frank Swift Chase, Wendell Macy, William Starbuck Macy, William Ferdinand Macy, Emily Hoffmeier, Edgar Jenney, William Henry Coffin,  Jack Gray, Elizabeth Saltonstall, Julian Yates & others.

AUCTION NEWS  highlights past auctions and details distinctive lots from upcoming sales, with links to benefit auctions & much, much more.

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  • December 4th 2010
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  • Nantucket Artists - Robert Perrin
  • August 14th 2010
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  • August 7th 2010
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    Nantucket Artists - Jose Formoso Reyes
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    Nantucket Artists - Anne Ramsdell Congdon
  • August 8
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    Nantucket Artists - Wendell Macy
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    Nantucket Artists - Ralph Cahoon
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    Looking Back At You
    Nantucket Artists - John Austin
  • July 4th
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    Nantucket Artists - Doris & Richard Beer
  • Inaugural Newsletter
nantucketartistsNantucket Artists

austinJohn Austin


John Austin (1918-2001)

Born in North Carolina, John Austin's youth was spent in New Jersey. He raised his family in Connecticut, before settling in Nantucket.

Austin studied at the Art Students' League in NYC under Reginald Marsh and was subsequently mentored by Edward Hopper during two years in Truro and New York. As a commercial artist, Austin designed floats for the annual Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parades. As a WWII serviceman, he produced training manuals for the Army. During his tour, he was constantly compiling sketchbooks that recorded European cities, the countryside and troops.

Post War, Austin returned again to the Art Students League, where he met his wife. By the early 60's, he had taken up painting full time.  With a preference for egg tempera, he produced representational paintings that recorded place:  the shore, barns, and cottages of Cape Cod, Maine and New Hampshire.

The Nantucket body of work is substantial, and entirely reflective of the locale. Austin began exhibiting at the Lobster Pot Gallery, before moving on to Reggie Levine's Main Street Gallery, where he remained until the gallery closed, in the late 1990's.

John Austin was a keen draftsman, preferring to sketch out his line drawings in situ, where he made studied color notations. His paintings were developed in studio. From the Chicken Box to the Pence School, from pilot houses to cranberry harvests, Austin's paintings captured the laid-back flavor of Nantucket culture.  House portraits and commissioned works were his specialty, as Austin thoroughly relished the social exchange with his clients and collectors.  Commemorative ships portraits, presented by the US Nantucket Coast Guard to retiring officers, earned Austin an honorary post in the Guard.

 Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis collected Austin's work, as did Mrs. Paul Mellon and Joyce & Seward Johnson.  In 1996, a high point in his career, Sotheby's sold two Austin paintings from the estate of Mrs. Onassis - a Brant Point close-up and a Tuckernuck landscape - for $29, 900 and $26,450 respectively.

John Austin's paintings remain in the permanent collection of the Nantucket Historical Association, and are a treasured presence in many Island households.   

by Carolyn Walsh


beerDoris Riker Beer & Richard Beer


Doris Riker Beer (1898-1967) and Richard Beer (1893-1959)
Based in the Wharf  Head Studio on North Wharf after moving to town from 'Sconset in 1940, Doris and her husband, Richard produced a well-known series of watercolor miniatures featuring popular Nantucket scenes. The couple frequently worked together on these copyrighted creations, Richard providing the line sketch and Doris completing the watercolor. Wharf  Head Studio consisted of living quarters and an exhibition space, out of which the couple operated for an eighteen-year span. Doris' work was praised by a reviewer as 'calm, limpid, but crisply executed with an economy of line.'

A native New Yorker, Doris studied at the Art Students League, Cooper Union, and with Arthur Dow at Columbia University. She developed a successful career designing theatrical scenery and costumes in New York, Newport, and later for the Straight Wharf  Theater on Nantucket.  Richard spent the summers of his childhood in 'Sconset.  A graduate of Hamilton College, he served for ten years as American Consul in posts in Budapest, England, Havana and Canada.  A self-taught painter, he also was a talented writer who contributed to The Saturday..." 

Found affixed on reverse of a Doris & Richard Beer painting:


CahoonRalph Eugene Cahoon


Ralph Cahoon (1910-1982)

Descended from 17th century Scottish immigrants to Cape Cod, Ralph Eugene Cahoon, Jr.  was essentially a self-taught folk artist. His only formal training consisted of a two-year course at the School of Practical Art in Boston. In 1932, Ralph met and married Martha Farham, the daughter of Swedish immigrants. Martha's father, Axel, was a talented furniture decorator who had learned the art of painting furniture (rosemaling) in Sweden. He taught this craft to Martha, who in turn taught Ralph.

Upon marrying, the couple set up home in Osterville where they established a business decorating and selling furniture and antiques. In 1945 they moved their family and business to Cotuit, purchasing the 1775 Crocker building for that purpose.

Around 1953, one of the Cahoon's customers, art patroness Joan Whitney Payson, convinced them to frame some of their designs for her to exhibit in her Long Island Country Art Gallery. The transition from furniture to easel painting was a successful one and the years that followed were very productive. During the 1960s, Ralph's hallmark mermaids helped to establish his own unique style; in paintings set in a typical New England backdrop: ocean, lighthouses, clipper ships, and perhaps a hot air balloon or two in the sky.

Throughout the 1960s and 1970s Cahoon's folk art regularly sold out exhibitions at the Lobster Pot Gallery on Nantucket and Palm Beach Galleries in Florida. Famous people who visited the Cotuit gallery included members of the Mellon and DuPont families, Josiah K. Lilly III, as well as First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy.

Today Ralph Cahoon is widely regarded as the most famous folk artist Cape Cod has produced. His work is highly collectable.

Excerpted from the Cahoon Museum of American Art, Cotuit, MA                http://www.cahoonmuseum.org/cahoon-museum-art.php


CharmanRodney Charman

Rodney Charman
Rodney Charman, Maritime Artist  (British, b. 1944)
A sea's ships are iconic - the cornerstones of a Global Maritime's history. Scores of painters have crafted the visual records, applying them to each ship's portrait. Others have painted meticulous narratives, enacting each ship's sea-worthiness and portraying her unique cultural pride.

But there's another kind of Maritime painting, a style that includes the applied dynamic of atmospherics.  Atmospherics are a Maritime tangible not so easily understood, and far less easily pictured. They're the effect of light penetrating space - passing through air laden with water vapor - mists, haze, fog, dust, engine exhaust or battle's smoke; the vapor especially dense near the ocean's surface; heavy, reflected in calm or tossed against waves scumbled by wind. Maritime atmospherics melt distances and blunt edges.

To paint atmospherics an artist must know them intimately, capricious nuance and all. To paint atmospherics, an artist's technical knowledge and skills - that is, his understanding of paint's mineral pigments' opacity and the various carrying mediums' capacity for transparency and flow - must be studied, evalated and practiced. Again and again and again.
Rodney Charman is a Maritime Artist celebrated for both his meticulous detail and atmospherics.  He is a self -taught artist, painting since he was 21.  The son of a Naval Officer and a passionate sailor, Charman soon turned to painting marine scenes, his oeuvre particularly distinguished by atmospheric effects.

Rodney has traveled extensively to research his paintings, including Hong Kong, China, Nova Scotia, and the US.  A permanent collection of his work may be seen at the Egan Institute, Nantucket, MA; a Maritime History of the fabled island fleet, cataloged by a fully illustrated book, published in 1989.
Another exhibition, 'The Famine Ships', presented by the South Street Seaport Museum, New York in 1998 was also accompanied by a book.

A frequent exhibitor at the Royal Society of Marine Artists in London, many of Charman's paintings have been published as Fine Art prints, one of them becoming the third highest selling print in the UK.

With tall ship sailing experience aboard the topsail schooner 'Malcolm Miller' and having raced regularly in 'X' boats at Lymington, Hampshire, where he lives, Charman has enjoyed plenty of opportunity to experience the atmospheric elements he so adroitly portrays.
by Carolyn Walsh with special thanks to "Portrait of Nantucket 1659-1890: Paintings by Rodney Charman" published by the Albert F. Egan Jr. Foundation Collection


CHASEFrank Swift Chase

Frank Swift Chase (1886 - 1958)
 A prodigious legacy. Justly venerated paintings. A mere seven year ascendency to acclaimed exhibitions among the most prestigious art institutions in America. Founder of art associations and colonies. Outdoorsman. Teacher.  The undisputed Dean of the Nantucket Art Colony, Frank Swift Chase's far-reaching influence is perhaps best articulated by Robert Frazier, in his article, "Grounded at Sea Level: Frank Swift Chase on Nantucket" published by the Nantucket Historical Association; Historic Nantucket, Summer 2007 (Vol. 56, No. 3)  
Chase's paintings capture an emotional tension typical of the American Naturalist tradition. Confident brushwork energizes wet-to-wet impasto, projecting authoritative color in a natural landscape, through a Tonalist's softly veiled light and shadow. 
"[His] love of color meant love of paint draped like vines over forest or field."   - Gary Irving; Frank Swift Chase Retrospective Exhibition, Vose Galleries, Boston, MA, 1985
Through his energy, vision, fraternity and teachings, Chase's influence on the history of American Art is significant. - Carolyn Walsh


1918 - 1923   Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts
1919 - 1923   Corcoran Gallery
1920,  1924   Newport Artists Association  (first prize)
1921 Salmagundi Art Club
        National Academy of Design
1922 Art Institute of Chicago  (Peabody Prize)
        Eastman School of Music
        Rochester Memorial Art Gallery (New York)
        Philadelphia Arts Council
        Minneapolis Institute of Arts
        Herron Art Institute
1923 Indiana Artists Association
        Carnegie Institute
        Peabody Art Gallery, Baltimore
1924 Art Directors Club  (medal)
1928 San Diego Fine Arts Gallery
1953 Kenneth Taylor Gallery, Nantucket
1954 Nantucket Artists Association.
Woodstock Artists Association
Springfield Artists Association

CongdonAnne Ramsdell Congdon

Anne Ramsdell Congdon (1873 - 1958)
In 1946 the Artist's Association of Nantucket mounted a retrospective exhibition of five artists deemed to be "of national importance." They were Henry S. Eddy, Edgar Jenney, Emerson Tuttle, Anne Ramsdell Congdon and Eastman Johnson. Today, Congdon's expressive, wet-to-wet brushwork in heavy impastos, her brilliant, sometimes exaggerated color, and her impeccable massing of vibrant shapes eloquently express the voice of an artist of consequence.
Born in Nashua NH to Governor George A and Eliza Wilson Ramsdell, Anne Ramsdell Congdon began her art studies at the age of seven. Her endeavor continued at a private school in Worcester, MA, and as a young woman, continued at the Académie Delecluse in Paris. Back in the States again, she studied under Rhoda Holmes Nichols, an assistant of William Merritt Chase, in Chase's summer art school near Ogunquit, Maine.  
While her earliest work - through 1902 - was in watercolor, plein air painting became Congdon's focus, and she began composing her palette in oils. Further studies with renowned American Impressionist painter, Charles Woodbury were definitive in the further development of Congdon's painterly style.  One of the most highly respected teaching artists of his day, Woodbury trained his students to see - that is, to strengthen their capacity for both observation and their memory. He challenged his students doggedly to be decisive; to paint motion. Congdon rose to the challenge.
Anne Ramsdell Congdon married Dr Charles E. Coffin, a Nantucket native who had a medical practice in Nashua. The couple summered on Nantucket, though it was not until years later that Congdon began to paint the Island in earnest, as she had put aside her easel altogether, in order to raise the couple's two sons. Upon Dr. Congdon's retirement in 1930, the family took up residence in Nantucket, where Anne R. Congdon soon established a studio in one of the cold-water shanties along Commercial Wharf. The shanties were suddenly being populated by artists, and Frank Swift Chase, whom the AAN described as "dean of Island painters and teachers" was leading the settlement.  Amid a community of like minded artists, and under Chase's influence, her canvases grew larger and her expression more exaggerated; reminiscent of Van Gogh and the Post Impressionists. 
Working in the plein air tradition, Congdon painted en situ. From Woodbury, she'd learned to complete each painting in one sitting. If, when she returned to her studio the finished painting was not satisfactory, it was disposed of. Anne R Congdon painted - and celebrated - Nantucket's wharves, her moors, her creeks, ponds and pastures.
Congdon's paintings are among the permanent collections of the Nantucket Historical Association, The Artist's Association of Nantucket, and the Egan Maritime Institute. She was an active member of the Artists Association, a leader in the development of Nantucket's annual Sidewalk Art Show, as well as in various other civic volunteer capacities, including Trustee of the NHA and a co-founder of the Hospital Thrift Shop. Additionally, works have been exhibited in Manchester and Nashua, New Hampshire, Lowell, Mass., and at the Boston Society of Independent Artists.
by Carolyn Walsh (ref: Margaret Moore Booker, Picturing Nantucket; Michael A. Jehle, editor; Egan Maritime Institute, and Nantucket Historical Association.)


DeeMolly Dee (American, b. Buffalo, NY; 1938)

Sepia, a pigment derived from the common cuttlefish, has been used for over a century. It was originally used by photographic toners to increase the range of visible shades in a black & white image without reducing contrast.  Sepia is a color gradient, absent of color, apart from its characteristic, warm umber.  Contrary to the chiaroscuro techniques favored during the Renaissance, where modeling light sharply against dark suggested volume, sepia used as toner diffuses the sharp, two dimensional edges between painted light and shadow, the softness evoking vintage and nostalgia.

Molly Dee the Romanticist paints in sepia tone to evoke an entirely personal, immediate, familiar and pleasantly emotional  response.  Molly Dee the Minimalist uses sepia tone to diminish the volume in human forms against land or sea 'scapes, diverting the viewers attention to mood.  Molly Dee the Figurative painter prefers sepia tone to animate body language and unspoken expressions among her subject gatherings.  Hers is a modernist voice applied to a traditionalist vocabulary.

"American painter, Molly Dee was born in Buffalo, NY in 1938. Studying at the acclaimed Albright Knox Art School, she received her Bachelor of Fine Arts Degree in 1960 from the University of Buffalo. Work for her Masters of Art Degree in 1973 and subsequent graduate studio work was done at the State University of New York at Buffalo.

Old photographs garnered from estate sales, family collections and historical archives are the inspiration for Molly's large figurative paintings. Her unique style and interpretation of photographic images evolved from the artist's early fascination with photos of her own parents, whom she had never known...

...Dee's work is large in scale and profound in impact; now widely collected by both individuals and corporations world wide."                          ~  Rider Frames & Gallery

DevaneyJohn Devaney

"Winter Choir"
Oil on Canvas
35 in. x 36 in.

Anyone even thinking about taking a good look at a John Devaney painting should first pause and breathe deep. Ready yourself intellectually by thinking monumentally: Think double - No, triple! - banana split, oozing with excess.  Open your mind to  excesses.  Now apply that same exercise in provocative thought to investigating Devany's layers of allusion, paradox and symbolism. Think pulpits and theatres and Sanford Farm vistas, August phosphorescence, disgorging ferries, New York's mid-town caverns, Time Square's cacophony Boston Brahmin and Quaker meetings....  Imagine the dynamics of it all - the inanimate animating the animate.  Metaphors.  Life masquerading as life.  Teeming.
John Devaney's paintings orchestrate a human parade, moving; eternally moving through an ebb and flow of consciousness, abundant and sensory; emotively staged and perfectly illuminated against the tension that lives between symbolism and allusion, rock-solid (?) inanimate and the human condition. 
~ Carolyn Walsh
John Devaney is a former Faculty member of The Museum of Fine Arts, Boston; the Art Institute of Boston; and the Carpenter Center, Harvard University.

Devaney is the recipient of a National Endowment for the Arts Regional Fellowship in Painting, Research and Teaching Fellowships at Harvard's Carpenter Center, and artist residencies at Yaddo and MacDowell Artist Colonies. 

His work has been exhibited at the San Diego Museum of Contemporary Art, MIT List Visual Art Center, and the Lyman Allan Art Museum, the Newport Art Museum, the Brockton Triennial, the Danforth Museum of Art, Harvard University, a ten-year retrospective at Miami-Dade College, University of California at Irvine, and the Springfield Museum of Art. 

Major mural commissions include the 2400 square foot painting for the University of Connecticut's Natatorium and the Water Fountain of Danehy. ~ Excerpted from John Devaney website


fishGeorge Gardner Fish

The Bride (The Maidens); pastel on paper, 50"x36"
signed, dated and inscribed, (lower left) G.G.Fish / NYork. 1858

George Gardner Fish (1822-1906)

A Nantucket portrait painter who principally worked in pastels, George Fish was born on Nantucket, the son of Reverend Phineas and Phebe Fish.  His earliest surviving work is dated 1845, painted at only twenty-three years of age.  His brother, William H. Fish (1821-1880) built the splendid frames that adorn many of George Fish's works.

Fish left Nantucket for New York in the mid-1850's, exhibiting at the National Academy of Design from 1858 to 1863. In 1866 he married Judith J. Derrick. While the couple spent an extended honeymoon in France, Fish studied with French pastellist, Constant Joseph Brochart (1816-1899). 

Eventually, Fishes returned to Nantucket with his bride.  There, the artist eked out a modest career, operating at first out of rented studio space at the Nantucket Atheneum.  Fish soon became  a kind of eminence grise on the island. He was an experienced, learned man who lectured frequently on art and literature, and played the violin.

This pastel painting exemplifies Fish's portraiture style.  Signed and dated 1858 and inscribed "NYork", it is one of his earliest known works to have been executed after Fish first left Nantucket.  It is believed that this pastel represents Fish's two daughters, Madeleine and Anna, together with their friends, Caroline and Florence Starbuck, who were the daughters of Fish's patron Matthew Starbuck of Nantucket.  Matthew was the son of Joseph Starbuck, an extremely prominent whaleship owner and merchant on Nantucket who built the locally famous "Three Bricks," one each for Starbuck's three sons.  Matthew received the "Middle Brick".

Ref:  Robert A. diCuricio, Art on Nantucket: The History of Painting on Nantucket Island, (pbl.1982, pp.82-91). 


gshillG S Hill

G.S. Hill (b. 1944)                                                                           
To say this artist is largely self taught is an understatement. Gregory Hill was taught by the surf. He learned while repairing the vessels in a harbor and accumulated his painterly vocabulary while traveling around - and around and around - the world.

Born in California, and perhaps tutored, or at least encouraged in the "how tos" of painterly observation by his mother, then an art director for a newspaper in Oregon, Greg completed his first oil painting at the age of 12.  Young Mr. Hill endured some architectural training at a university level, and even engaged an art class or two; but his instincts told him there was more to learn outside of academic disciplines. At 19 he set out for Europe, choosing to journal what he observed in images rather than words.
Gregory Hill is both draftsman and documentarian. He retreats to his studio every single day, pondering what once was against what is, in the street scapes, architectural portraits, vistas and sailing vessels he portrays on canvas.  Among his oeuvre of representational works, his interest in evolution of place influences each and every composition, as the artist colors light and dark the way hours evolve the day: long morning shadows, hot reflective sunlight, sunset haze. At the hand of this artist, each scene might be construed in multiples, according to the arch of the sun as it circles the sea, a golf course, an historic landmark.
Look for texture in the oil paintings; a slightly romanticized precision in the pencil drawings and watercolors. Discover movement in skies and fields, in billowed sales, lacquered ships' rails and sparkling water.  Look for history in facades, trees, streets and walkways. Look for what's familiar. See it  through an artist's eyes.
GS Hill opened his first gallery in Seal Beach, CA in 1969. By 1972 he was once again traveling; this time with his wife, Judi. He painted and sketched as they traveled, selling the work in summer art fairs, until settling in Maui in 1974. During the next decades, one man shows in Europe, Japan, Australia, the Hawaiian Islands and eventually Nantucket established GS Hill solidly among collectors.
Hill's first exhibit on Nantucket was at the Harbour Gallery, on Old South Wharf, where began a solid relationship between the couple and the community. Both far-reaching and generous, the Hills donate largely to the island's not for profits; as much as $30-40,000 annually is raised through the sale of GS Hill paintings; for Hospice, AIDS, the Hospital, Childrens' Charity Classic, NHA and more.  In 1994, proceeds from a GS Hill historic painting that marked the Centennial of the Nantucket Historical Association channeled $14,000 for the Edouard Stackpole papers.   A series of 8 graphite drawings that span 1979-1993 remain in the NHA's permanent collection.


LeverRichard Hayley Lever

Richard Hayley Lever "Nantucket Fish Shack" (detail)
18 in. x 22 in.

Richard Hayley Lever (1876 - 1958)
Believing that "Art is the re-creation of mood in line, form and color," Richard Hayley Lever developed a signature style of expression that spans three continents. Having been born near Adelaide, and having received his early art education in coastal Australia, an inheritance offered young Lever the opportunity to further his study in London & Paris.  Mid-career was spent settled into the historic, fishing village of Saint Ives, in Cornwall, England. The latter half, and most notable years of his career produced paintings in New York; especially during increasingly frequent travels to paint the harbors, boats and buildings of the New England coast.
While geographically Lever drew from a tri-continental experience, his artistic vocabulary and technique developed by observing the classics, and resulted from his thoughtful consideration of the growing movements in the visual arts: away from sentimentality and moral allusion in favor of  Impressionist, Post Impressionist and eventually, Expressionist and Surrealist works. But like Whistler, just 20 years his senior, Lever was more interested in evoking a mood than in accurately depicting the effects of light.
Perhaps the first significant development in the evolution of a signature style evolved during his years in Saint Ives, where, immersed in the company of like-minded artists, he became interested in the subdued tonal quality of harbor scenes; particularly as reflected against the water, and particularly at dusk. The challenges of depicting a subject with limited palette and shadowed light would lead to a minimalist inclination, and a stripping away of the unnecessary. 
Hayley Lever's career in Europe fared him well, with his 1904 debut at the Royal Academy of Arts in London, and subsequent exhibitions at the St. Ives Art Club, the New English Art Club, the Royal West of England Academy, and the Society of Royal British Artists, as well as exhibitions in Paris, Nice, and Venice.
In 1908 Lever first saw the work of Post-Impressionist painter Vincent Van Gogh.
The artist's boldness in  unleashed form and color, and the flat two-dimensional shapes and patterns inspired in Hayley Lever a new beginning. Two years later, newly progressive renderings of the boats and buildings of Saint Ives earned Lever an invitation from the Carnegie International in Pittsburgh. American critics resoundingly approved, and by 1913 Lever had decided to re-locate his career to New York City, the new epi-center of the visual arts.
"...in all his painting, whether it is of boats dancing on the waters of the Cornish coast, the ferry bridges and boats and streets of Gloucester, Massachusetts, the steaming asphalt highways of New York City, or the gently upheaving Catskills about Woodstock, it is always Lever who addresses us."  Edgar Holger Cahill, critic and author of, "Hayley Lever, Indivitualist," Shadowland 7 (November 1922)
Amid the critics' accolades, Lever quickly earned a major reputation in national art circles, winning numerous awards and prizes, including, the National Academy of Design, the National Arts Club, and the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts. Solo shows included the Memorial Art Gallery in Rochester, NY, the Syracuse Museum of Fine Arts and the Buffalo Fine Arts Academy.   
During the next 15 years, CapeAnn, Rockport, Marblehead and Nantucket provided Lever the American equivalent of his beloved Saint Yves. He reached his creative zenith during this period, expressing the spirit of  each place with "originality", "vigor" and "zest for design."
Richard Hayley Lever was a member of the most prestigious art organizations of his day, notably, the National Academy of Design, and the National Arts Club.

  by Carolyn Walsh, reference:  Spanierman Gallery, LLC;
Duncan Philips, Phillips Memorial Gallery; 
Lolita Flockhart, Art and Artists of New Jersey:
Cheryl Kempler, Delaware Museum of Art 


MacyWendellWendell Macy

(detail) "Hauling Seaweed", oil on panel, signed lower right,
 "Wendell Macy, 1884"  4 1/8 in. x 7 in.

Wendell Macy (1845 - 1913)

Descended of Thomas Macy & Richard Swain, who were among Nantucket's earliest English settlers, Wendell Macy was born in New Bedford, Massachusetts; the son of Josiah and Eliza Swain Macy. He married Rachel Parker, daughter of Elisha and Elizabeth Gardiner Parker of Nantucket. The couple lived in New Bedford during the late 60's and early 70's, where Macy worked for a firm that specialized in nautical instruments. Eventually he opened an art studio with L. B. Ellis Fine Art. It is likely his earliest works were portraits.

To date there has been no evidence of exactly where Wendell Macy may have studied his craft. He worked in "crayon," (pastels) his preference for portraiture, and composed marine and coastal 'scapes in oil on board. Eventually, the Macy's took up a livelihood of summering on Nantucket, where Macy wasted no time in establishing a means of exhibition.  In 1872, the Inquirer & Mirror offers the earliest record of Macy's Nantucket work, exhibited "at Miss Mary P. Swain's store." In the following decades, Macy's skill as an artist combined with his acute entrepreneurial aptitude enabled an immediate following among summer visitors.

His were portable paintings, generally done on wooden panels that were beveled at the edges, so as not to require framing.  Macy was both prolific and pragmatic in portraying Nantucket's landmarks, steam boats, seascapes, and quaint street scenes. Presented in his sophisticated 2nd floor Main Street salon, each would be the perfect souvenir for travelers, while being an historically relevant telling of the Island's unique cultural fabric.

Nantucket's autumn Agricultural Fairs offered Macy additional exhibition opportunity: sheep shearing, husbandry, fish drays and kelp harvesting activities colored charming genre scenes of a rapidly disappearing populace.  Soon enough, the aspiring artist and business man had forged alliances as Vice President and President of the Atheneum, and as Trustee for the NHA.

But Wendell Macy was perhaps most admired for his tragic portrayals of maritime tragedy. During the last quarter of the 19th century, Nantucket's South Shore was frequently amuck with ship wrecks. The spectacle of rescued cargo and crew became a popular attraction for all - especially so for the growing artists colony.  Macy utilized dominant shadows, brooding skies, and a preference for great, crashing waves against dwarfed figures to articulate unfolding drama.  These works eventually found their way to exhibition at the Smithsonian's Corcoran Gallery of Art, in Washington DC, and to the permanent collections the likes of the New Bedford Whaling Museum and the Nantucket Historical Association. 

Carolyn Walsh, ref: Michael A Jehle, Editor; "Picturing Nantucket"                 copyright, 2000; Nantucket Historical Association


McDanielKeith McDaniel

Oil on Canvas "Barn Door"
18 in. x 24 in.

Born:       Newark, NJ 1948 - died; Boston, MA 1986
Studied:  The Art Institute, Philadalphia
Medium: Acrylic on canvas

Keith McDaniel's is among the unfinished oeuvres of Modern American Realism.  A too short life allowed for an active period of barely a dozen years; yet exhibitions in Reggie Levine's Main Street Gallery both on Nantucket and in Boston caught the discerning eye of Sara Roby, a New York patroness of the arts, whose foundation supported American figurative painters; artists who might otherwise have been overshadowed during the peak years of the Abstract Expressionist movement.

Founded in 1952, the Sara Roby Foundation Collection acquired artworks spanning a period of some 60 years, including works by Jacob Lawrence, Edward Hopper, Will Barnet, Paul Cadmus, Ben Shawn, Yasuo Kuniyoshi, Reginald Marsh, Gaston Lachaise, William King, Max Weber, George Murphy, Keith McDaniel and others. Administered by the Whitney Museum of American Art from 1955 through the late 60's, the collection eventually came to be under the jurisdiction of  the American Federation of Arts. In 1984, the National Museum of American Art, the Smithsonian Institution, received from Ms. Roby an unrestricted gift of 169 paintings, drawings and sculpture.  Three years later, The Smithsonian mounted the traveling exhibition: "Modern American Realism: The Sara Roby Collection from the National Museum of American Art." The painting pictured above traveled in the exhibition, and is published in the catalog. "On the Wharf" is among 4 paintings acquired by the museum.

"A longtime resident of Boston, McDaniel painted compositions based on the city's diverse architectural styles. Concerned with both interior and exterior space, McDaniel sought out unusual structures - a fortress on an island in Boston Harbor, wharf buildings on Nantucket Island - finding a unique harmony in their aging architectural forms. Typically unpopulated, McDaniel's landscapes retain strong geometric overtones. By simplifying lighting patterns and stressing asymmetry in both structure and viewpoint, McDaniel imbued his scenes with an air of mystery and implicit narrative." ~ Virginia M. Mecklenburg catalog: "Modern American Realism: The Sara Roby Foundation Collection from the national Museum of American Art", Travelling Exhibition (Washington, D.C.: Smithsonian Institution Press for the National Museum of American Art, 1987)

In 1996, USA TODAY reported: "Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis 1996 estate auction (at Sotheby's) Lot 1007: "Bath Houses" by Keith McDaniel (est. $1,500-$2,500). $19,550." McDaniel's works can be found in private collections from Boston to Palm Beach.


PerrinCharles Robert Perrin (1915-1999)

"Methodist Church"
Watercolor on Paper
21 1/2 in. x 14 in.

The telling of the breadth and merit of C. Robert Perrin's 50-year plus Nantucket career becomes apparent when considering that in 1956, his studio became the very first gallery to populate Old South Wharf.  Though his earlier avocation as illustrator informed the structure of his painting, it was Perrin's pure, unadulterated charisma that engaged watercolor & brush, to stage pictorial novellas of Nantucket "isms".   In the same way watercolor paints are made of pigments suspended in a water soluble vehicle, C. Robert Perrin's paintings are built of island "isms" suspended in place.  Like "Dioxazine Violet" or "Cadmium Red" pigments, and by Perrin's hand, nature - seagulls, whales, scallops, whelk, Queen Anne's lace & rugosa - architectural icons and vistas, or Nantucketers both past and present are washed and glazed, scumbled, or applied wet in wet, to float in and out of time and place. Perrin's paintings are reflections of moments; sparkling in puddles and floating in mists. ~Carolyn Walsh

Born in Medfield, Massachusetts; a graduate of the Art Institute of Boston, Perrin first painted on Nantucket in 1946. His studio on Old South Wharf evolved to become the first active gallery on the wharf in 1956, and by 1966 he'd moved permanently to Washington Street where he established a summer tradition of Wednesday evening demonstrations of his watercolor technique. Originally an illustrator by trade, C. Robert Perrin made use of his inventive nature to illustrate Island children's books (Remember Whopper or Nancy Tucket?) and some of the first posters employed to market the island. As reported in American Artist magazine in 1959, Perrin converted a VW bus into a plein air studio on wheels. The artist favored Payne's Gray for his watercolors of puddles, fog imagery and ghosts; and when the premier maker of watercolors announced it was discontinuing the color, Perrin lobbied successfully for its continuation. He remained active in the arts community on Nantucket for 5 decades.  
~ adapted from Robert Frazier's Nantucket Arts Buzz

C. Robert Perrin's work is represented within the Smithsonian American Art Museum; Gift of the Ford Motor Company, 1966.36.152.  A Suite of Four Nantucket Seasons, interpreted against the animated body of a whale is among the holdings of the Nantucket Historical Association. Perrin was elected a Life Member of the American Watercolor Society (1956). His prowess as a watercolor painter was credited in "One Hundred Watercolor Techniques", together with renowned artists, Andrew Wyeth and Ogden Plysmer.  C. Robert Perrin's work has been documented in "Who's Who in American Art," "Who's Who in the East," and "Who's Who in the Arts & Antiques."  The C. Robert Perrin Watercolor Award is presented annually, by the Artists Association of Nantucket.


ReidJane Brewster Reid


Watercolor on Paper "Nantucket Street Scene"
signed lower right J.B. Reid 
10 in. x 9 in.

Jane Brewster Reid (1862-1966)
Descended from the Mayflower, born in Chicago, and active in Rochester, New York, Jane Brewster Reid was a landscape painter who summered and painted on Nantucket from 1891, well into the 1930's - just prior to and during the heyday of the young art colony. The artist worked in various media, producing watercolors, etchings and prints.
Like so many American artists of the day, J.B. Reid's career was likely influenced by a renaissance in watercolor painting, begun at the hand of Winslow Homer. Until then, watercolor had generally been restricted to preliminary sketch-work for oil paintings or engravings, and though it was also valued for its portability in recording documentary travel journals, watercolor was considered the lesser medium.  In 1873, Homer's use of watercolor as a means of expression inspired a new vocabulary among American artists.  The medium's propensity for transparency, luminous washes and brilliant light enabled evocative atmospherics, idyllic chronicles of the fleeting effects of nature, and a newly poetic transcription of place; all well-suited for consumption by late Victorian tastes. Artists followed. The Golden Age of American Watercolor Painting had begun.
While Reid was active in Rochester, and painted during travels in England and Wales, the artist cultivated the attention of Nantucket's growing summer community by presenting the island's implicit charm. Summer gardens, lanes and cottages, Nantucket's ever-popular icons: Stone Alley, the Old Mill, Sankaty Head Light, Swain's Farm, and the village of 'Sconset were among Reid's favorite subjects. She painted many of her favorites in multiples, and found a ready audience at Miss Sylvia's shop (Pleasant Street) and later at The Swimming Duck. (Centre Street)  By 1907 Reid was an exhibiting member of the Boston Art Club. Her work has been or is represented at The Art Institute of Chicago, The Memorial Art Gallery, University of Rochester, The Nantucket Historical Association and The Artists Association of Nantucket.  Jane Brewster Reid lived to be 103 years old.

Carolyn Walsh
ref: Ben Simon, Nantucket Historical Association
Weyer, Henry; Sea-Grit (1902)
Falk; Who Was Who in American Art, 1564-1975 (1999)
Dunbier; The Artists Bluebook (2005)
Simon, Ben, curator; The Nantucket Art Colony, 1920-1945, exhibition catalogue, Nantucket Historical Association


ReyesJose Formoso Reyes


Offered August 22nd in two lots: Rare Form Nantucket Friendship Basket with woven top and braided leather strap, signed upon the base "Made in Nantucket, José Formoso Reyes". 

Rare Form Nantucket Cocktail Basket with woven top and handle,
signed upon the base "Made in Nantucket, José Formoso Reyes"

José Formoso Reyes (1902-1980)
It was Clinton Mitchell Ray who mentored José Formoso Reyes' early forays into Nantucket basket making. "Mitchy" was a third generation weaver held in especially high regard.  While Mitchy's grandfather is credited with having woven the first covered Nantucket Lightship basket, it was José Reyes who invented and perfected the Nantucket Friendship basket purse as we know it today.

 Born in Luzon, Philippines during the early days of US Colonialism, José Formoso Reyes' educational opportunity was limited by the rural isolation of his village in a then-developing country. His father was self taught, the Bible having been his workbook; and children of the village were offered only a second grade education.  Of like mind with regard to the value of an education, José and his father were equally determined. The younger man's odyssey began in Portland, OR, where José graduated high school, and then earned a degree in Education at Reed College. The first Asian to graduate from Reed, in 1932, Reyes was awarded a scholarship to Harvard, where he received a Masters Degree in Education.

 Reyes married Elizabeth (Betty) Ham, the daughter of a New England family. The couple first met in Portland, and were later reunited in Cambridge. Together they set out for the Philippines, intent on establishing Reyes' teaching career there. Though their children were born in the Philippines, by 1945 the Asia Pacific Wars forced a hasty retreat back to the US.  Ham's parents offered the weary family a respite in Nantucket. They never left.

 Soon enough, a small homestead on York Street, in Nantucket's New Guinea neighborhood (in/around Five Corners) provided the family basic shelter, but in 1945, for foreign born Reyes, a teaching position in the public schools was more difficult to attain. So, Reyes painted houses and did what else he could, while his wife, a nurse,  took occasional shifts at the hospital, and together with her children, picked berries to put up jams and jellies to pay the bills.

 During his 20 years in Luzon, Reyes had come to appreciate fine craftsmanship. Observing the brisk trade in mold-woven baskets on Nantucket, he determined to learn the craft. By 1948, he'd invented lids fashioned in the same manner as the baskets themselves: cane weavers fixed into a grooved wooden plate that had been bolted to a mold, with staves - or ribs - splayed out around it, as a framework for the weavers. A hardwood rim mirrored the rim on the basket; the lid affixed with cane-wrapped leather loops. The first plates he designed for the lids were simple manifestations that mirrored the hardwood bases. Next came something more exotic: ebony.  Eventually, the addition of ivory whales, shells or gulls carved in relief and centered on the plate added interest - and status - to the various baskets. Quite suddenly, Reyes' uniquely stylish Friendship Baskets were attracting the attention of Nantucket's ladies and visitors alike. Wait lists for a José Reyes Friendship basket grew from months to years, as his practical invention evolved from becoming locally fashionable to a bona fide cottage industry.

 José Formoso Reyes engaged in his community with characteristic vigor. A Rotarian, a member of the Congregational Church Choir, a Mason, Scout leader, and PTA member, José Reyes gave 100 percent to every endeavor.

In tribute, his family preserved, and donated his working studio to the Nantucket Lightship Basket Museum, where it has been installed exactly as it was.

by Carolyn Walsh
( ref: Frances Ruley Karttunen, "The Other Islanders, people who pulled Nantucket's oars", Spinner Publications; David Wood, "Historic Nantucket" VOL 43 #1, Nantucket Historical Association,  Nantucket Lightship Basket Museum


SargAnthony Frederick Sarg

Colored Pencil Drawing, signed lower right "Sarg 29"
11 in. x 14 in.

(April 21, 1880 - February 17, 1942)
Epic. The length and breadth of Anthony Frederick Sarg's legacy, as told by marionettes whose creation was conceived by his regard for his Grandmother's collection. Marionettes whom he morphed from traditional, wooden, stringed figures all the way to human; and then to never before imaginable, silky skinned balloons that floated down New York's Madison Avenue; the marionettes' strings upside down. Tony Sarg's legacy is today measured by his wit, his innate empathy for human frailty, dignity, childishness and yes, comedy. Epic.

Mind boggling, Tony Sarg.  Genius. Opportunist. Inventor. Puppeteer. Showman. Illustrator.  Graphic artist....   He'd decided - after being rewarded as a young boy, for having invented a mechanized application that would relieve him from the daily duty of feeding his father's chickens - that a "gimmick" just might be his "ticket."  If  Tony Sarg was consistent in one thing, it was that he ALWAYS connected the dots. And wonderful dots they were!  ~ Carolyn Walsh

"Anthony Frederick Sarg was born in Guatemala in 1880. The family moved to Germany in 1887. He met Bertha McGowan, an American tourist, and in 1909 they were married in her home town of Cincinnati, Ohio. Two years later they moved to England and had a daughter, Mary.

With the advent of World War I, Tony moved his family to New York, where he  became an illustrator for The Saturday Evening Post, which bolstered his reputation in the New York art community. He had a studio in Times Square and his reputation soon soared! He started to bring his family to Nantucket, along  with some of his New York friends and in 1921 he bought a house at #1 North Liberty Street.

While Tony Sarg was well known as a childrens' book illustrator, he was also, in fact the man who revived the marionette theater in America. Sarg specialized in devising animal characters to educate as well as to entertain young readers. Some of his story books were created with movable parts, others explored history with a comic twist, giving illustrations for making toys or how to save money.

Sarg's creative output was limitless. Sometimes compared to the artist Red Grooms, nothing was out of the question when it came to creativity. He designed jigsaw puzzles, musical blocks, and designed boxes in the style of pantry boxes.

In 1935 Tony Sarg designed the first mechanically animated window display for Macy's Department Store. Until his death in 1942 he created new designs for Macy's holiday windows. This was not Tony's only connection with Macy's, (which started on Nantucket where Murray's Toggery is now located) as he created the first hot air balloons for their Thanksgiving Day Parade.

Shortly after his move to Nantucket, he opened the Tony Sarg shop at 38 Centre Street  featuring many of his designs and toys. In 1929, the shop was relocated at the corner of Easy Street and Steamboat Wharf where it became Tony Sarg's Curiosity Shop.

So many of Sarg's designs reflect on Nantucket. His boxes show scenes of Sankaty Light, Miacomet Pond, the old fairgrounds and the steamship. He created fabric designs with Nantucket images such as a map, the Macy House at 99 Main Street, the Pequot, whales and so much more. He also designed a wallpaper with similar images. Sarg's map of Nantucket is a classic, but he also drew maps of Main Street and the Harbor.

Sarg was the creator of the design for the Wharf Rat Club. With his experience of the Macy's hot air balloons, he fabricated a "monster" which was inflated on Coatue and sailed across the harbor, delighting so many children. Tony designed several posters for Nantucket, including the Hospital Fete and the Hospital Thrift Shop.

Sarg's daughter Mary donated a wealth of Tony's material to the Hospital Thrift shop and thanks to Martha Groetzinger and Phil and Elizabeth Murray, the body of work is now in the collection of the Nantucket Historical Association where it was the subject of an exhibition at the Fair Street Museum in 1983."  
~ Nantucket Historical Association


shunneyAndrew Shunney

Geraniums, oil on canvas, (30" x 40")
According to the estate, this was Andrew Shunney's last painting;
 offered at auction on July 4, 2009.

Andrew Shunney (1916-1978)

Born in Attleboro, Massachusetts, Shunney studied at the Rhode Island School of Design. He later took up residency in Manhattan, where he attended the Art Students League, and studied under Yasuo Kuniyoshi.  In 1946, Shunney benefited from a four year period of "master criticism" under Diego Rivera,  a Master who disliked the term "pupil" and wanted no disciples.  Still searching, Shunney next headed for Paris, hoping for inspiration in the work of the French Impressionists.  There he painted the streets of Paris, and the landscapes of Honfleur and Cannes. Before leaving France in 1950, he received an invitation to exhibit in the prestigious Salon d'Automne.

Andrew  Shunney's signature style is very much a product of an exceptionally fertile period in Western - and particularly, in American - modern art history.  He was a disciplined colorist whose preference for thick impasto applied with a palate knife, invoked a surreal abstraction to minimalist compositions.

From the early '50's until his death, Andrew Shunney and his life-partner Charles Maguire wintered in Palm Beach, where Shunney was represented by the Palm Beach Galleries. They summered on Nantucket, where he first kept a studio on Straight Wharf, and later joined his peers, Ralph Cahoon, Polly & Bobby Bushong, Roy Baily, Irmgard Arvin, Nathaniel Benchley, Elizabeth Saltonstall and Mary Sarg-Murphy, at George Vigouroux's Lobster Pot Gallery.  By 1971 Shunney had earned a one man exhibition at the Hammer Galleries in NYC. His was an uncompromising quest for his own artistic voice, a distinguished career; a relevant body of work.

by Carolyn Walsh


YatesJulian E. Yates


Julian E. Yates (1871-1953)

Born in Williams Mills, NC, Colonel Julian E. Yates received a Divinity degree from the University of Chicago. A military Chaplain who saw action in France duty during WWI, he eventually became Chief of Chaplains for the US Army. He retired in 1935.

During most of the following 18 years, Col. Yates and his wife divided their time between Washington, DC and 27 India Street, Nantucket, where Colonel Yates spent much of his time painting.  Apparently self-taught, he produced a body of art significant to Nantucket's the post-war summer colony genre.  Soon enough, Yates became active in the newly founded Artists' Association of Nantucket, exhibiting at the Kenneth Taylor Galleries and during AAN's annual sidewalk sales to favorable review by the press.  Col. Yates served as the organization's first secretary and treasurer.

 The artist's preferred medium was oil. While primitively rendered, his realistic, and infinitely detailed paintings were justly appreciated for their apt expressions of daily life during the late 30's to early 50's. He recorded a unique period in the history of the summer colony that continues to be of interest today.

 In 1961, The Lobster Pot Gallery presented a retrospective exhibition of Yates' work.       In 1999, Yates was prominently featured in the Nantucket Historical Association, Fair Street Gallery exhibit entitled, "The Originals," in honor of the Artists' Association's 50th anniversary.  Several of his paintings remain in the collection of Nantucket Historical Association.   Yates is listed in  Robert diCursio's Art on Nantucket and in Who's Who in American Art, with individual work(s?) cataloged in the Smithsonian American Art Museum's Inventories of American Painting and Sculpture database.

by Carolyn Walsh; Ref:  Picturing Nantucket/An Art History of the Island of Nantucket with Paintings from the Collection of the NHA, by Michael A. Jehle; pub. 2000


baskethistoryThe Nantucket Lightship Basket
 An Historic Perspective

Courtesy of the Nantucket Lightship Basket Museum

Native American and splint farm baskets of the early 1800s
Local Native American baskets were, in part, a precursor to the Nantucket lightship baskets later made by white men. The local natives wove baskets with ash wood splints and weavers, through a process of stripping and soaking the layers of wood. The bottoms were square woven. Similar to lightship baskets, these baskets featured a carved flange on the handle to keep it in place. Farm baskets of New Hampshire, with their wooden bases, are also similar to the Nantucket lightship basket.

1830s - 1850s Baskets made during part of the Whaling Era
Although early rattan baskets made on the ships were made free form, without a mold, it is believed that the concept of a lightship basket (At this time known as rattan baskets.) was cultivated aboard whaling ships. During this transition period, elements of the wooden base found in New Hampshire work baskets and splint baskets of the Native American were incorporated with the new elements of a mold and cane from south-east Asia to create the Nantucket lightship basket.


Coopers were stationed aboard whaling vessels (Coopers were wood workers who made barrels to hold the whale oil.)   A barrel has a wooden base, ribs or "staves" and a wooden rim much like the Nantucket lightship basket. These woodworkers had access to lathes, woodworking tools and most likely a lot of free time.  The cane was traded with merchant ships; therefore all of the materials for the "lightship basket" were on board. The construction may have come from an ingenious sailor who used what was accessible on board the ship to weave a basket similar to those woven with cane that he had seen on his travels.

Some retired whalers became lightship keepers. A few known basket makers/whalers were Captain James Wyer, Captain Charles B. Ray, Captain Thomas S. James and Captain James F. Chase.

There are three significant elements found in the construction of a Nantucket Lightship Basket. The basket is woven on a mold; the weaver used is rattan, otherwise known as cane and the basket has a solid wooden base. You will notice that most of the mass-produced replicas that are imported today have hollow wooden bases.


Basket making during the Lightship Era 1858-1900

In 1856, the state of Massachusetts commissioned lightships staffed with approximately 10 men to provide light to passing ships in the heavily trafficked waters around the dangerous shoals to the the bases. Most of the basket makers at this time were signing or labeling their baskets.

The popularization of ladies handbags as an accessory occurred in the late 1940s due to the ingenuity of José Formoso Reyes. Although covered baskets were constructed for other utilitarian purposes since the late 1800s, Reyes made it popular with the help of Charlie Sayle who added a decorative carving to the top. Reyes broke from tradition and called these friendship baskets because the basket symbolized a bond with Nantucket and was instantly recognized as a reminder of this special place.  The friendship purse is responsible for connecting people who went on to form lifelong friendships. 

During this time, it was a common tradition for a girl to receive a friendship basket upon graduating Nantucket High School when friendship baskets cost $20 - $35. Throughout the world, baskets were as popular as ever and basket makers were experimenting with many new styles and forms. Some weavers during this time were: José Reyes (influenced by Mitchy Ray), Sherwin Boyer, Stanley Roop, Stephen Gibbs, John Kittila, John Elder and Paul Whitten.
1980 - Current
We have seen many changes in adornments, materials used and detail that goes into weaving a Nantucket basket.  Another significant occurrence in the beginning of the contemporary period is that some distinguished basket makers began teaching groups of students the techniques of weaving in more formal settings.  These teachers provided the wood worked pieces such as the mold, base, rim and handle.  Students completed the weaving and assembly.  Through this process, many hobbyists, who were not adept at woodworking, were introduced to lightship basketry and were able to create beautiful baskets.   This not only created a market for lightship basket instructors, but also created a market for component pieces.

Over time, another group of basket makers emerged.  For these basket makers, weaving is not their primary occupation.    They made their living in many different ways.  For them, weaving baskets provided an opportunity to supplement their existing income or to earn a little additional spending money in retirement.  Some of these basket makers include: Manny Dias, Paul Johnson, Maureen Reed, Bill Sevrens, Betty Lou Clark and Albert Ottison.
 Major contemporary and commercial weavers who make or have made their primary living from weaving baskets (and for some, teaching) over the past 31 years include: Dick and Donna Cifranic, Terry Sylvia, Bill and Judy Sayle, Trish and Dick Anderson, Paul Willer, Michael Kane, Nap Plank, Alan Reed, Karol Lindquist and Susan and Karl Ottison.  Major teachers of this time include: Terry Sylvia, Donna and Dick Cifranic, Karol Lindquist, Tim Parsons and Peter Finch.
What the future holds....Today there are a handful of shops where the basket weaver makes his or her living from the trade.  They create the entire basket, including all of the component parts, in a good old fashioned workshop.  In these workshops you can find  newer technology such as magnification, precise computer designs and high tech vacuums for removing dust as well as many of the same tools that were used by the early basket makers. The tradition continues.

photos courtesy of
The Nantucket Lightship Basket Museum, Nantucket Historical Association,
and Mahon About Town
by Carolyn Walsh

from our Collection of South Sea Pearls


There's a growing sorority on Nantucket. Have you joined?  It's a knowing sisterhood with a certain proclivity for good pearls, and good value. 

Born during the month of June? Then pearls, my Dear, are your birthright!! Margarita,  Margaret, Peggy, Marjorie, Margot, Maggie, Gretchen, Gretel and Rita - you should not be least among the sisters. Your given name is derived from the ancient Greek, "pearl." 


 Pearl Farm, Tahiti 


1. Natural or cultured?  Freshwater, Akoya, South Sea and Tahitian pearls these days are pretty much all cultured.  Natural pearls? Over fished and endangered. There might be one single harvestable natural pearl in every 100 bivalves, and only one in ten of those are of good  quality.                                                                           

 2. "Every Grain of Sand" is a title/lyric from Bob Dylan. Sand's got nothing what so ever to do with culturing pearls. Each pearl begins with the insertion (nucleation) of a tiny piece of mantle from a sacrificed mollusk (fresh water pearls) or a small bead of mother-of-pearl. (Akoya, South Sea and Tahitian)

 3. It's natural! The oyster secretes layers of nacre around the insertion.  It's the depth of nacre - the layers are like growth rings on a tree - that determines luster and value.

 4. The big difference: multiple insertions can be made in each muscle for freshwater pearls. The salt water variety gets just one bead inserted per oyster.

 5. One pearl. Five years. South Sea and Tahitian oysters that are at least  2 years of age may be cultured, with nacre development lasting another 2-3 years before the pearl is harvested.

                   BASKET NESTBASKET NEST

 6. Remember Mikimoto? They're the folks who set the standards for Akoya pearl culture back in the early 1900's, when cultured pearls became coveted by the rich & famous!  Pearls came to symbolize classic beauty, purity and love.

Spotting the best pearls is easy!

Look for luster, brightness and as near a perfectly smooth finish as your budget will allow. Salt water pearls have more value than fresh water. Larger South Sea and Tahitian pearls (11-18mm) with thicker nacre took 2-5 years longer to form,  which is reflected in the value.  Always look for carefully matched strings; in both color and shape.

Did you know? Pearls are "calcareous concretions" that develop in the soft tissue of a living animal. Calcareous concretions are produced by a variety of animal types: gastropods, squid, octopi, snails, worms, arthropods - even humans! The human version of a "pearl" is a kidney stone.

 In Julius Cesar's day, during the Roman Empire, pearls were valued so highly that just one pearl could fund an entire war!  Hmmm,  a sisterhood with a proclivity for good pearls. Here? Well, Nantucket has always considered herself a sovereign state! And there never was any holding back those Petticoat Row girls!

www.rafaelosonaauction.com       508-228-3942       osona@rafaelosonaauction.com
21 Washington St., Nantucket, MA 02554 US