Wall Street Journal
August 16, 2016
Six miles off the Atlantic coastline, where New Hampshire abuts Maine, is the archipelago known as the Isles of Shoals. The largest of its nine landmasses is Maine’s Appledore Island—95 weather-beaten acres of rocky coves, tidal pools and knobby shrubbery, all anchored by nature-cleaved mounds of white-and-gray granite. From 1848 to 1914, its western shores were the site of Appledore House, a grand, rambling hotel owned and operated by the family of the poet, artist and naturalist Celia Thaxter (1835-1894).
Thaxter, Appledore’s resident cultural luminary, lived in an adjacent cottage. Vacationers craned to spy, through Thaxter’s vine-cloaked, wraparound porch, the celebrities at her summer soirées, including writers Nathaniel Hawthorne and Ralph Waldo Emerson and painters William Morris Hunt and Frederick Childe Hassam.
But like the artists who frequented Appledore, resort guests were probably more transfixed by the views from their own porches: surf driving against rocky shores; active, New England skies; the surrounding smaller islands and distant, hazy mainland horizon; glorious sunsets.
These sweeping vistas entranced Hassam (1859-1935), who nearly every summer visited and painted Appledore between 1886 and 1916. And those pictures are the subject of American Impressionist: Childe Hassam and the Isles of Shoals, a handsome exhibition of more than 40 marine oils and watercolors at Salem’s Peabody Essex Museum. Curated at PEM by Austen Barron Bailly, the museum’s curator of American art, the show was co-organized with the North Carolina Museum of Art in cooperation with the Shoals Marine Laboratory.