19th century views of MDI

SOUTHWEST HARBOR — An exhibition of newly discovered works by Xanthus Smith (1839-1929) representing various locations around Mount Desert Island is now on display at the Clark Point Gallery.

An opening reception for the show is set for Sunday, July 7, from 4:30-6:30 p.m.

Smith, who was born in Philadelphia, served in the Union Navy during the Civil War and became famous for his paintings of naval battles and warships.

He started to vacation on MDI in 1877 and was so impressed by the scenery that he eventually bought a house in Maine, on Bailey Island overlooking Casco Bay.

The art historian John Wilmerding observed that Smith became “almost an artist-in-residence on the island in the eighties and nineties,” and that the region “remained a natural passion throughout his later life.”

The exhibition, which is accompanied by a 16-page color illustrated catalogue, consists of 30 oil sketches, watercolor/gouaches, ink washes, graphite drawings and pen and ink compositions.

One oil sketch is especially noteworthy because it represents an unidentified fish cannery — town authorities forced such industrial sites out of the area during the mid-1880s in order to promote tourism.

Many of the views are idyllic plein air studies that Smith did directly from nature on sketching excursions by rowboat around Southwest Harbor. He was also fascinated by the destructive forces of nature and four of the oils are dramatic views of shipwrecks and dark, stormy seas.

Five of the works represent the hull of a ship called the Surprise that was wrecked during the first week of September 1882.

Contact 244-0920.

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