Close this search box.

well established and here for you

independently owned and operated since 1977

Going Inside

A New Direction for Anne Packard

by Rebecca M. Alvin

Top Image: Packard in her studio.  Photo: Ron Amato

“I love the paintings I paint in my sleep. They’re masterpieces. They’re everything I want. That sounds crazy, doesn’t it?” asks Provincetown painter Anne Packard, her eyes wide and sparkling with energy. “But it’s in a half-world. It’s not a conscious [thing]… It’s got to be in the half-world.”

Her paintings have most often been plein air depictions of the land and sea, moody portraits of boats in the bay, usually solitary ones. But she is quick to say these are not about loneliness. “I’ve rarely been lonely. And I love my solitude,” she explains thoughtfully. “And I also have loved my boats.

Each boat is like a character for Packard. “Each one is an individual that’s gone through something. And I feel sorry for them when their bottoms aren’t scrubbed out or taken out of the water in time. I have an affinity for them. They’re persons,” she says.

People rarely figure into these paintings, and Packard admits she has few relationships and rarely spends time in the gallery she owns because of the energy it takes to be around people. “I don’t have many relationships… It uses me up,” she says. “I don’t have the energy to take care of them.”

In her new show at her own Packard Gallery, she will feature works that are not typical for her: interiors. Why now? It likely has to do with her having been ill for several months, spending a lot of time inside and no longer having the energy and strength to do plein air painting. But also, it may just be time for a change. “I don’t want to think about horizon lines for a little while,” she confesses. “I mean when you live with it 40 years, it starts to feel like a glass ball that I’m enclosed in. I don’t like that.”

These images are mostly of beds—some real and some imagined. “There’s something about your bed or a bed that is messed up that you want to crawl into,” she says with a smile. “And I love the play of light that a bright sun or any kind of light that comes through the window onto the messed sheets.”

Afternoon Light (11 x 14, oil on board) © Anne Packard

Packard’s history with the town is a long, rich one, and just about everyone here knows the name. But her story is wrapped up in rumor and legend. Packard is, as she puts it “a fighter… a survivor.” And along with that tenacity comes a certain intensely individualistic personality that has always thrived in Provincetown, even if things have since changed. “I can live here in any manner I wish to. And the people who come in here now, they don’t understand it. F**k ‘em,” she says.

She makes this declaration now as we sit in her longtime home on the bay side of Commercial Street in the East End neighborhood where legends like Norman Mailer and Robert Motherwell used to live. A wall of windows showcases what has been Packard’s muse throughout her career (she’s lived in this house over 40 years): the ocean and the tides coming in and out reliably every day, nonstop. But when Packard first came here that freedom to do as she pleased was hard won. She arrived in her early 40s, a woman with five children to raise on her own after her husband, a writer and teacher, ran off to Europe with his 19-year-old girlfriend. Although Packard had been painting for about 10 years by then, she had always put her husband’s work and the needs of her family ahead of her creative impulses and was never able to really get anywhere, professionally, as an artist. Provincetown had been a place she’d come to as a child, and her family already had a legacy here through her grandfather, painter Max Bohm, who lived and died in Provincetown before Anne was born.  Perhaps something of his spirit helped her along in those early days when she began painting on anything she could get her hands on—driftwood, paper, scrap wood—and she began selling her work right in front of this very house. In those days, her paintings fetched prices like $15 or $25. Now, her work sells for thousands.

Sitting on the sofa in paint-stained green corduroys, the 86-year-old artist has a defiant energy to her. She came here with nothing but that energy and raised her family as a bohemian tribe. “We were not like other people, the way we lived,” she recalls. The kids ate on the kitchen floor because the table was full of paints. Packard says there was no resentment on her part. By the time she got serious about painting, her youngest was 12 and so she was able to live the creative life and still take care of them, sometimes barely able to put food on the table, though.

Bedroom View (30 x 40, oil on canvas) © Anne Packard

Her work was so impressive that her neighbor in the 1970s, prominent artist Robert Motherwell bought pieces from her, but stopped short of helping her with his significant contacts and influence in the art world by that time. Packard studied with artist Philip Malicoat, who taught her a lot, but gave her an ultimatum that speaks volumes about the bourgeois idealism of male painters of the time. He told her if she continued to sell her art in front of her house (what he saw as abusing her muse), he would not teach her anymore. When she explained she had six mouths to feed, he told her she should be a waitress and only paint for creative fulfillment and not for money. Packard did not listen.

Packard’s grandfather Max Bohm once advised “Submit to no one and paint what you like.” This seems to be Packard’s ethos. Grateful for the success she has found, she says, “I love being successful and I appreciate all my followers. And they’ve made my life much pleasanter, because we were hand-to-mouth here, literally.”

And even now that Provincetown has changed so much from the wild, free place Packard was first drawn to, it’s still the only place for her. “It’s the only place I have ever felt comfortable.”

Anne Packard’s new work will be shown in the exhibition A Different View, October 11 – 31, at Packard Gallery, 418 Commercial St., Provincetown. There will be an opening reception with Packard in attendance on Friday, October 11, 6 – 8 p.m. For more information call 508.487.4690 or visit

Recent Posts

Sign up for our Newsletter

Scroll to Top

Sign up for our Newsletter

Graphic Artist

Ginger Mountain

Ginger Mountain (MS Communications Media, BA Fine Arts/Teaching Certification K-12) has been part of the graphic design team at Provincetown Magazine since 2008. Ginger has worked as a creative director, individual contractor, and freelance designer with clients representing many areas —business software, consumer products, professional services, entertainment, and network hardware to name just a few — providing creative layout and development of a wide range of print media content. Her clients ranged from small local businesses to large corporations and Fortune 500 companies, from New Hampshire to Georgia

Keep in touch

Fill in your details and I will get back to you in no time.

Phone: + 1 508-487-1000 ext 6
[email protected] 14 Center St. Provincetown MA, 02657