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REVIEW: Hawthorne, Hofmann, and Hopper—Preserving a Legacy

by Rebecca M. Alvin

You might think from the title of this show currently on view at the Provincetown Art Association and Museum (PAAM) that it’s an exhibition of just the works of these three giants of the Provincetown artist colony legacy: Charles Hawthorne, founder of the Cape Cod School of Art; Hans Hofmann, legendary abstract expressionist artist and teacher; and Edward Hopper, arguably the most widely known artist to be affiliated with Cape Cod. But the second half of the title aptly points toward the real goal of the show, which is to clearly demonstrate the legacy of these artists beyond just their own stunning bodies of work. To that end, PAAM features work by more than a dozen artists whose works reflect the influence of one or more of the three Hs— including work by a fourth H of historical importance, Henry Hensche, and a contemporary artist, the fifth H, Robert Henry, who continues to make a significant contribution to art in Provincetown. Beyond that, it’s also about Provincetown and the depth and range of its artistic legacy, which is after all, part of the mission at PAAM to promote.

On the far wall when you enter the exhibition gallery is His First Voyage (pictured above), one of Hawthorne’s most striking paintings. The large piece features deep, dark and rich oils, and the remarkable facial expression of the subject hints at two of the possible emotions in the young man’s innocent, blue-green eyes: fear or trauma, depending on whether you read the painting as a depiction of his preparation for or return from his first voyage. The others in his painting look down, except for the little sister to the right, who stares right at him as though she somehow gets it completely.

It’s a beautiful work in an entirely different way than the Hofmanns and Hoppers, which are also exceptional. Hofmann’s students are well represented, including Robert DeNiro, Sr., Selina Trieff, Wolf Kahn, and others. The abstract works are varied, some with more fluid lines and others clearly exploring geometric shapes, unabashedly. Most of the Hoppers are pencil drawings and studies, but the exhibition also features a selection of fascinating personal letters between the Hoppers and various other artists and Provincetown folks, giving a glimpse of the social life and artistic circles of mid-20th-century Provincetown.

It’s an exhibition with a wealth of evidence as to Provincetown’s artistic lineage, and although there is scant information about each piece, it invites further investigation and works as a perfect Provincetown art primer.

Hawthorne, Hofmann, and Hopper—Preserving a Legacy is on view at PAAM, 460 Commercial St., through August 29. Admission is by reservation only at this time. Call 508.487.1750 for more information or visit to reserve a time.

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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

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