When the names of popular Cape Ann artists who lived and painted there from the 1920s to the 1960s appear in American art histories, are discussed or researched, two names appear at the top of the list, and they are Emile Gruppe and Aldo Hibbard.
Emile Albert Gruppe was not dissuaded from pursuing a career in art as most young men were by anxious fathers who were concerned with their sons’ professions, but encouraged to do so by his sire, Charles Gruppe, who was a renowned landscape painter.
Emile Gruppe was born in Rochester, New York, and served one year in the Navy in 1917, before actively following his lifelong career in art. He undoubtedly tried different media while studying art at the National Academy in New York City, at the Grande Chaumiere in Paris, and with his mentors George Bridgeman, John F. Carlson, Charles Hawthorne, Richard Miller, and George Chapman, but his preference was oils, and he excelled with his fluid brushwork in a post-impressionist style.
Emile Gruppe discovered Rockport in 1925, but soon decided to reside in Gloucester. ‘Fish Town,’ with its fleet of fancifully painted fishing vessels, crowded wharf buildings and related shacks, and colorful inhabitants provided inspiration for the prolific artist. Summer and winter landscapes with distinctive white birch trees were also a favorite motif of Emile Gruppe’s as was Rockport’s artists’ mecca, Motif #1. While teaching at the Gruppe Summer School in Gloucester, which he founded in 1942 along with some of his mentors, he always stressed design as being the most important part of any painting, followed by values and then color.
Gruppe was an extremely energetic man who painted well into his seventies, winning national and local awards throughout his career, and he is represented in many public and private collections. The Gruppe family lived at 11 Wonson Street in Rocky Neck and his tourist-popular gallery was located at 32 Rocky Neck Avenue in East Gloucester.