H. Boylston Dummer
One lesson I’ve learned again and again: don’t automatically dismiss an artist who achieved a reasonable level of recognition during his or her lifetime. The difference between the vast majority of artists with comparable skills and training is the frequency of inspired works of sincere effort, thought, and even risk versus the average, formulaic, modest pieces. In short, even the mediocre artist was capable of surpassing his general works with flashes of real quality, and the collector should be sensitive to these rare breakthroughs. That is the way I felt when I saw this major piece in 1997 by artist/illustrator H. Boylston Dummer. It represents a Gloucester fisherman, probably during the dreary winter months with time on his hands, stoically showing the viewer his handicraft, a magnificent sailboat. The colors, textures, and marvelous composition reflects the direct, unflinching realism of Charles Hawthorne. Here, the Cape Ann fisherman becomes the primary element and force in the fishing community, rather than the boats and harbors. In general, the fishermen are depicted by the artists as largely decorative features on the docks or decks, small in size and mere suggestions of themselves. Rarely are they the heroes of the paintings. Dummer captures the hard, uncompromising life of the fisherman in what has to be one of the best, if not the best, works by the artist. I would not trade it for any (almost any) big-name artist.