When one thinks of the painters and paintings of Gloucester and Rockport, Massachusetts and the work of the Cape Ann Artists Colony, the names that usually come to mind are Anthony Thieme, Aldro Hibbard, Emile Gruppe, Frederick Mulhaupt and others; all men. Painting alongside these men was an extremely talented group of academy-trained women artists. Although lesser known to the general public, they are now quite collectible in their own right. Many of these women artists were Massachusetts natives, or were schooled by Gloucester/Cape Ann artists, or had already summered in Cape Ann for years before the more famous men even took up residence.
Among the more famous and collectible women artists of the Cape Ann Artist Colony are Cecelia Beaux, Marion Boyd Allen, Louise Brumback, Eleanor Park Custis, Helen Stein, Theresa Bernstein, Fern I. Coppedge, Jean Nutting Oliver, and Margaret Fitzhugh Brown. Many of them share a direct lineage to the great art schools of Philadelphia and Boston; schools like Philadelphia School of Design for Women (now Moore College of Art and Design) and the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Art and the School of the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston and to teachers at these institutions, William Merritt Chase in Philadelphia, and Frank Weston Benson and Edmund Charles Tarbell in Boston, among others.
In the final analysis, these women artists and the many other women artists who lived and worked in the Cape Ann area from the early 1900s to the late 1960s created an enormous body of work across countless mediums and in a wide variety of styles. Many of these famous women artists were responsible for fostering the Cape Ann artist community by founding and maintaining memberships in various arts associations and organizations, establishing connections with other artists and collectors who lived and summered there, and by traveling far and wide to share their Cape Ann experiences, their art making practices, and their images. For many, laboring out of the public eye often allowed them greater freedom to pursue more avant garde ideas or methodologies. In total, their work offers a unique perspective on the art-making of this period, as well as often being a document of life in and around the Cape Ann locale itself. Theirs is an artistic expression; not only visual, but also social and of community.