Samuel Peter Rolt Triscott
British by birth, Samuel Triscott 1846-1925) emigrated to the United States in 1871 and settled in Massachusetts where he supported himself as an engineer while spending all of his free time painting. Around 1880, he took a studio in Boston where he was able to devote himself full time to his art. Watercolor was his primary medium and his meticulously detailed, sensitively rendered paintings quickly drew the attention of critics and connoisseurs alike. At the peak of his career, his work was compared favorably with such contemporaries as John Singer Sargent and Winslow Homer, with whom he was acquainted.
He began selling his paintings in 1874, and in 1881 Triscott had a one-man show at the Boston Art Club. Triscott also worked as a painting teacher during this time. He showed regularly at the Boston Art Club, the American Watercolor Society in New York, The Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts and the Gallery of J. Eastman Chase. In 1885, he was one of the founding members of the Boston Society of Water Color Painters.
Images from wiscassetbaygallery.com
His style of painting with fluent washes of transparent color, though a change from the accepted norm was well received. It is believed his students included Winslow Homer, Sears Gallagher, William J. Bixbee, Woodbridge Gee, Melbourne H. Hardwick, Charles Copeland, William Ladd Taylor, and Robert Henri.
In 1892, Triscott first visited Monhegan Island with his student and friend Sears Gallagher. Captivated by the island’s unique and unblemished beauty, the artist returned regularly over the next decade. In 1902, he made Monhegan his permanent home, rarely leaving the island and becoming its first year-round resident artist. Although he continued to work in a style rooted in the 19th century, he incorporated photography into his creative process, using the medium both as an inspiration for his paintings and as a creative end in itself.
The remoteness and rugged landscape of Monhegan Island, Maine, attracted artists in the 1890s including Samuel Peter Rolt Triscott and Eric Hudson. Old Lyme artists including Charles and Mary Ebert, Ernest Albert, William Chadwick, William Robinson, Edward Rook, Henry Selden, and Wilson Irvine summered on Monhegan. The most influential artist who worked on the island was Robert Henri. As a member of the Ash Can School and a teacher at the New York School of Art, Henri encouraged his fellow artists to visit Monhegan to escape the grittiness of the city.
Henri and Impressionist painter Edward Willis Redfield worked side-by-side laying the foundation for an art colony, which included Rockwell Kent, Edward Hopper, Randall Davey, George Bellows, and Leon Kroll. The island continues to attract artists from around the country each summer.
Photos from lookingtowardportugal.blogspot.com
Monhegan remains relatively unspoiled because, hard island work aside, there is not a lot to do unless you are a player of games, a reader of books, a writer of poems, a taker of photographs, a watcher of birds, a hiker of trails, or a painter of pictures. It has never become a Mecca for the super rich because there is no tennis or golf, no movie theaters or bars, no country club or nightclub. The ocean is too cold for all but the heartiest children in the shallowest places. You cannot show off your toys.
There are no cars allowed, and although the harbor is an occasional brief stopover for Bolshevik-making motorboats (or "stink pots”), they do not stay long. The harbor currents, tides, and sea swell make for more pitch and roll than can allow for a good sleep on most nights.
For most painters, it is about the light. Being twelve miles out to sea, the air usually has a lot of salt in it, which lends it a luminosity that can be truly dazzling. You almost always need dark glasses. It is also about the rock formations. Monhegan came about, as did most of the islands of the Maine Coast, due to the shifting of tectonic plates, volcanic upheavals, and finally the carving out of the earth's crust in an age of ice. Nowhere in the Eastern United States is the coastline as dramatic, as gutsy and as muscular. The Big Sur, Britain's Cornish coast, the Norwegian fjords, or the Irish cliffs of Moher all have their own magic, but Monhegan has not only this great power of rugged cliffs and pounding surf but also a lovely quietude of wood and trail and a charming rambling village. And all on an oval island a mile and a half long by three quarters of a mile wide, most of it protected against development by the Monhegan Associates, a land trust set up in the 1950s by Ted Edison, son of Thomas Alva Edison, himself a Monhegan regular in the early twentieth century. It is a place that you feel you can get to know, whose mysteries you can begin to unravel, and once you know it a bit and start to make it your own, you cannot get it out of your blood or your mind.
(A Gift to the Island by Remak Ramsay at tfaoi.com)
Willows along the River
Images from wiscassetbaygallery.com
The River Bend
Images from wiscassetbaygallery.com
Triscott brought a sure hand to the traditional English watercolor technique, handling the medium with control and for the most part favoring the subdued palette of his brethren. The critics of his day had the painter pegged just right, calling him "the most punctilious watercolorist" and "the most able aquarellist in America." Despite Triscott's evident skills, Donelson Hoopes didn't include him in his landmark American Watercolor Painting (1977), preferring artists more daring and distinctive in their style and choice of subject matter.
(R. Malone/e. Shettleworth workingwaterfront.com)
Sparrowhead Light House, Grand Manan
Watercolor and gouache on paper
"Of particular interest is the fascinating relationship of photography to painting. Many pairings highlight the ways in which the artist worked directly from photographs (interesting to note that a critic once described a Triscott painting as being 'hopelessly literal and painfully conscientious,' perhaps a result of his photographic eye). . . . Triscott turned out many a memorable watercolor and canvas. One traces the evolution of a neat representational style that loosened up when the artist arrived in Maine. In addition to Monhegan, Mount Desert, Ogunquit, and other coastal Maine motifs, there are panoramic views of river valleys in New Hampshire and Massachusetts, and delicate watercolors of England and France. Outstanding among the Monhegan sheets are several winter landscapes, which must stand among the first ever painted of the island at this time of year . . ." — Carl Little, Working Waterfront/Inter-Island News.
"Though often somber in tone . . . the artist's paintings are strong, compelling, and unique for his time and place. By contrast, the photographs, though often used for composition in his paintings, are bright and uplifting even in fog and surf. It seems clear that Triscott will now be remembered not as a shadowy Monhegan pioneer and artistic footnote, but as a masterful painter and photographer." — William David Barry, Maine Sunday Telegram.
Classic nineteenth-century watercolorist in the English tradition, Triscott continued to paint, but also did photography, painted in oils, and produced hand-tinted photographs. He took delight in his garden and his cats, served tea in the afternoon to a few select friends, and gradually severed his ties with the cosmopolitan art world in favor of life on a rugged island ten miles out to sea. He continued painting in the style which suited him best, but as public taste turned to impressionism, expressionism, and modernism, his masterful landscapes and beautifully composed studies were largely ignored by the larger art world.
In the years following his death, many of his paintings were given away or sold for just a few dollars, but some remained in islanders' homes and he was considered by some locals to have been one of the most important members of Monhegan's celebrated art community.
S. P. R. Triscott died on April 15, 1925 on Monhegan Island. Triscott left his estate to Nellie Humphrey, his housekeeper on the island.
(Source: "American Art Review", December 2002)