Morris Hall Pancoast
Many artists fell upon particularly difficult times during the Depression era. Art is a precarious occupation during the best of economic times, and when the bottom falls out, decorations for your walls are way down on your priority list. Pancoast appears to have been particularly hard hit, especially after a long struggle for many years in newspaper work and other jobs to save enough money for desperately needed art lessons. For a decade after the crash, he and his beloved wife did antique shows, managed hotels or restaurants, whatever it took. His painting suffered, and little was produced. Not until 1945 was he able to settle down and resume painting. As I became further involved with Cape Ann art and artists, some of the more elusive members of the community appealed more and more to me. Pancoast’s snowscapes, images of families sledding during winters in Lane’s Cove, and other depictions of daily life, reflected a distinctly honest quality devoid of frills and fluff, most likely a reflection of his own existence. This is a large, rugged image of men and horses transporting blocks of cut granite toward the water’s edge to build a pier or breakwater. I was driving through coastal Maine in 2003 and visited Nicoll Fine Art in Newcastle, an appealing coastal village where I discovered this painting, which I believe is Pancoast at his best.