Mid-century in paint and pen

FITZ HUGH Lane, who painted the works here, and poet William Cullen Bryant, the subject of the accompanying essay, were important figures in the arts in the first 60 years of 19th-century America. Both were born in Massachusetts, descendants of early Puritan immigrants. Both worked as professionals in their chosen fields: the poet Bryant as an influential newspaper editor, the painter Lane first as a lithographer and illustrator of sheet music, later as a painter of works that served the interests of patrons and real estate developers of his native Gloucester. In the earlier stages of his career Lane produced paintings that detailed, in an era before the widespread use of photography, the specific look of specific places and chronicled, as in ``Boston Harbor,'' the bustle and muscle of a society transforming itself from an agricultural to a commercial and manufacturing base.

Paintings such as ``Gloucester from Brookbank'' - Brookbank was the summer home of Lane's patron Samuel E. Sawyer - served the interests of real estate investors who were developing Gloucester as a summer resort.

As Elizabeth Garrity Ellis points out in her article in the catalog for the ``Paintings by Fitz Hugh Lane'' exhibit now on display at Boston's Museum of Fine Arts (through Dec. 31) the value of the home and studio Lane built on Gloucester's Duncan's Point doubled within 13 years after its completion.

In his later years, Lane became more interested in the effects of light on the land- and seascapes he had so often rendered. In ``Lighthouse at Camden, Maine,'' a roseate twilight radiates from behind the rock near the painting's center, lining the darkening clouds with pink.

By this time the commercial and manufacturing transformation of Lane's part of America was so far advanced - and his own economic security was sufficiently assured - that he could allow his paintings to contemplate more eternal elements. At this time the workaday content of his paintings - men doing jobs, commercial real estate and buildings - tends to disappear and he produces work of confidence, maturity, and wisdom.

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