Image Credit: William Langson Lathrop (1859-1938), Chilmark Moor, Martha’s Vineyard, 1930, oil on canvas, H. 25 x W. 30 inches, James A. Michener Art Museum. Gift of Marguerite and Gerry Lenfest.
About the Artwork
The finest art, like all else finest in Life, is founded on Love. The presence or absence and the amount and quality of the love embodied in any work of art is the sure guide to its value and permanence.
—William L. Lathrop
Chilmark Moor, Martha’s Vineyard is one of William Lathrop‘s many poetic and evocative landscape paintings. His early landscapes used more muted shades, like browns and blue-grays but his later works were more impressionistic and used an expanded palette. Lathrop often worked en plein air, in the manner of many Pennsylvania impressionists, but he also deemed it important to complete his paintings in the studio, drawing upon memory.
Chilmark Moor located in Martha’s Vineyard was of particular interest to Lathrop because of its proximity to the sea. The sea appealed to Lathrop artistically as well as nautically. Like other Pennsylvania impressionists, most notably Edward Redfield, Henry Snell, Fern Coppedge, George Sotter, and Walter Schofield, he expressed his fascination with the ocean in painting, creating many marine landscapes. Sailing on the Widge, Lathrop often sketched and painted seascapes. After his death, a painting dated September 21, 1938 was discovered in the Widge’s cabin, proving that until his poignant final moments, Lathrop drew inspiration from the sea.
- What do you see?
- Describe the artist’s use of color. What colors do you see?
- Describe the brush strokes and the way the paint is applied to the canvas.
- What time of day is shown in the painting? What season? Why do you think this?
- Does the style of this painting remind you of artwork by any other artists?
- Have you ever been to a place like this?
About the Artist
William Langson Lathrop was born March 29, 1859, Warren, Illinois. Lathrop was often called the Dean of the New Hope art colony. Lathrop helped to established this community of artists soon after he moved into Phillips’ Mill in 1899. His home and studio quickly emerged as the intellectual and spiritual center of the art colony, as he ferried students to his studio and, with his wife Annie, hosted weekly teas for his colleagues. A dedicated teacher, Lathrop mentored several members of the New Hope school’s first and second generations.
Lathrop first visited Bucks County in 1898 upon the encouragement of a longtime friend, Dr. George M. Marshall, who sold him the miller’s house of Phillips’ Mill in 1899. Lathrop’s home at Phillips’ Mill became the site of lessons and weekly teas where lively discussions of aesthetics and politics occurred. Lathrop was an influential friend, colleague, and mentor to many important members of the Bucks County artistic community, including Daniel Garber, Robert Spencer, Morgan Colt, Rae Sloan Bredin and Charles Rosen. Lathrop was also the first president of the Phillips’ Mill Community Association, 1929. His son, Julian L. Lathrop, was a founder of and taught at the Solebury School. William Lathrop and Henry B. Snell were also close friends. Henry Snell, his English born wife, painter Florence Snell, and the Lathrop families had Sunday dinner together at Phillips’ Mill for many years. Snell helped Lathrop build his boat, The Widge, and is fondly remembered by the family as Uncle Harry. Lathrop was also friends with noted painters John Folinsbee and Harry Leith-Ross.
Primarily a tonalist, Lathrop created poetic and evocative paintings in muted shades, often of earth browns and blue-grays. Most often he painted simplified rustic landscapes in oils or occasionally in watercolors. Although Lathrop often worked en plein air in the manner of many Pennsylvania impressionists, he deemed it important to complete his paintings in the studio, drawing also upon memory.
In his later years, Lathrop developed a more impressionistic style, expanding the colors in his palette. An avid sailor, Lathrop tragically died when his boat, The Widge, sank in a hurricane off Long Island in 1938.
“[Lathrop] painted from inner feeling, not through direct approach as I paint, and the effect is charming.”-Edward Redfield
- Use the Act it Out! Activity Sheet on your next visit to the Michener.
- Use the Poetic Approach to Nature Activity Sheet on your next visit to the Michener.
- Use the Focus on Chimark Moor, Martha’s Vineyard Activity Sheet on your next visit to the Michener.
- Use all five senses to imagine what it would be like to visit the place in this painting. Write a short descriptive narrative describing this place.
- Since Lathrop was referred to as a “poet”, what do you think he’s saying with his work? If you could create a short poem for this work, what would it say?
- Lathrop wrote many letters and kept a logbook or journal. Do you own a diary? Why is it important to have a diary? Pretend you are Lathrop painting on your boat. Write a journal entry explaining the recent experiences of your travels.
- Why is it important to write letters? How do you communicate with others today? How many types of communication are there? In the perspective of William Lathrop, write a letter to a friend or family member explaining your experiences of painting on your boat. If you would to write this message today, how many ways could you write it and distribute it?
- Use the Create a Motive Like William Lathrop Activity Sheet during your visit to the Michener.
- Like many other Pennsylvania Impressionist artists, Lathrop painted “en plein air” which means “in the open air”. Go outside and paint a landscape painting of your own.
- Looking further: If we could walk around in this painting and look closer at the details, what else might we see? Make a sketch of this painting as if the image continued past the frame.
- Lathrop liked to travel on his sailboat and paint the sea. Using photographs for reference, create a seascape of your own. Perhaps this is a place you have visited already. What would you include?
- Compare and contrast Chilmark Moor, Martha’s Vineyard with another Pennsylvania Impressionist painting in the collection. Visit the Bucks County Artists’ Database to find other Pennsylvania Impressionist artists and examples of their work.
- What is a moor? Learn about different types of land classifications.
- Where is Martha’s Vineyard located? What are its geographical characteristics? How does it compare to the Bucks County region?
- Calculate the distance and time Lathrop would have needed to travel in a sailboat from his home at Phillips’ Mill to Martha’s Vineyard.
Activity Sheet: Create a Motive Like William Lathrop
Activity Sheet: Focus on Chimark Moor, Martha’s Vineyard
Activity Sheet: Focus on William L. Lathrop: A Poetic Approach to Nature
Activity Sheet: Act it Out! The Story of William L. Lathrop
Blog post: An Artist’s Creative Process: The Sketchbook
The Painterly Voice Bucks County’s Fertile Ground Online Exhibition: Chilmark Moor, Martha’s Vineyard
Permanent Collection Youth Audio Tour: Untitled (Landscape with Figure) by William L. Lathrop
Videos from YouTube: