Lane, Fitz Hugh (Henry) – American Artist

Fitz Hugh (Henry) Lane (1804 to 1865)

Fitz Henry Lane was one of the foremost American marine painters of the nineteenth century. He was born in 1804 in Gloucester, Massachusetts, and spent much of his youth sketching the Cape Ann shore. He apprenticed with William S. Pendleton, the Boston lithography firm, in the early 1830′s, specializing in topographic views. In the 1840′s Lane probably saw the works of Robert Salmon and Washington Allston in Boston, and it was at this time that he decided to concentrate on painting. The paintings of the late 1840′s and early 1850′s reflected Lane’s earlier graphics training, in conjunction with the influence of the marine artists of the earlier generation.

The following information is reprinted with permission from an editorial in the Maine Antique Digest by S. Clayton Pennington. Copyright Maine Antique Digest, July, 2005.

Getting the Names Straight

It is not often that the title of a book contains earth-shaking news, but a reprint of John Wilmerding’s** 1971 Fitz Hugh Lane gives the story away with its new title, Fitz Henry Lane. That’s right, the name of one of America’s foremost marine artists has been changed by the foremost Lane scholar.

According to a press release by the Cape Ann Historical Association, “The discovery was made in 2004, the 200th anniversary of Lane’s birth, in his hometown of Gloucester, Massachusetts, where the Cape Ann Historical Museum celebrated with a year-long series of programs and special events. Wilmerding spoke in the fall, attracting the predictable standing room only crowd and prompting several completely unexpected developments.”

As the introduction to the book explains, “In the audience that night was Sarah Dunlap of the Gloucester Archives Committee. When Wilmerding ended the evening by posing questions about Lane that remained unanswered, Dunlap thought that local researchers could be helpful. She talked to Stephanie Buck, the librarian/archivist at the Museum, and together with other members of the Gloucester Archives Committee, they decided to tackle the mystery of Lane’s name. It was generally established that he had changed his name from the original Nathaniel Rogers Lane, and Dunlap and Buck tracked down Lane’s 1831 letter to the Commonwealth of Massachusetts requesting a name change. His petition was granted in 1832, and his name became not Fitz Hugh Lane but Fitz Henry Lane.”

The text of the reprint has not been changed, it still contains references to Fitz Hugh Lane, which may still perpetuate the old information.

…Left unmentioned is author Tony Peluso’s claim in the September 1992 M.A.D. that at least half of the unsigned paintings attributed to Lane were actually painted by Mary Mellen.” note: **John Wilmerding (born 1938) is one of America’s most distinguished art collectors, scholars and authors. He is the great-grandson of Henry O. Havemeyer, a sugar tycoon and important early collector of Americana and prints. His grandmother was Electra Havemeyer Webb, one of the most influential Americana collectors of the early twentieth century and the founder of the Shelburne Museum in Vermont (1947). In 2004 Wilmerding gave a collection of 51 great American paintings, drawings and watercolors, including works of Winslow Homer, Thomas Eakins, George Caleb Bingham, Martin Johnson Heade, John Frederick Kensett, Frederick Edwin Church, and many others, to the National Gallery of Art in Washington, where he had served as senor curator of American Art and Associate Director.

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