Sara Weeks Peabody in front of one of her painted screens in 1975. PHOTO COURTESY OF NORTHEAST HARBOR LIBRARY

Sara Weeks Peabody: A Life in Line and Color 

Hadlock Pond in watercolor, part of Sara Weeks Peabody’s home collection, shows how she was a student of line and color.

MOUNT DESERT — Sara Weeks Peabody was 11 years old when she attended her first life drawing class. That class sparked an interest in exploring and producing art for the rest of her life.  

For a number of years, guests of the Northeast Harbor Library have been greeted by Peabody’s large-scale painting of Mount Desert Island. Beginning Aug. 2 and running through the month, an exhibit at the library, called Sara Weeks Peabody: A Life in Line and Color, will feature her work. An opening reception is scheduled at the library on Aug. 3 from 5-7 p.m. and is open to the public. 

Curated by Carl Little, with the help of Peabody’s children, who continue to make their home on Peabody Drive part of their summer each year, the show features oil and watercolor paintings – some on silk – monotypes and drawings, as well as two gilded and painted folding screens. 

“Peabody drew on all her artistic wherewithal to explore her sense of place, from Little Long Pond to the land of icebergs,” says Little, who is an art writer. 

Peabody got introduced to Northeast Harbor after marrying Francis Peabody and spent many years preserving the local landscape in its many seasons on canvas.  

“There were certain places that were touchstones for her, like Little Long Pond,” said her daughter Martha Swetzoff. She explained how her mother returned to that place over and over to capture fall colors, morning light, fog or the bright green of summer. “Maine was full of places like that for her… It’s almost like it gave her structure to play with style.” 

Peabody was born in Boston in 1926. Her father was the editor of the Atlantic Monthly. She majored in painting at Sarah Lawrence College and went on to become a teacher, assistant book editor at Houghton Mifflin, editor of the magazine Current Design and research assistant at the Addison Gallery of American Art. In 1946, the year of its inception, Peabody attended the Skowhegan School of Painting and Sculpture. She also published a children’s book, “Tales of a Common Pigeon,” in 1960, based on the birds that hung out in the city’s famous park.  

After initiating her journey into art at age 11 with sculptor George Demetrios, Peabody studied different styles and techniques with many different artists throughout her life, including Yasuhiro Iguchi of the Boston Museum of Fine Arts after she became curious about the tradition of folding Japanese screens. With his guidance, Peabody learned the techniques of construction and gold and silver leaf application. 

“She was a student all her life as far as studying work, going to see work,” said Swetzoff, from the family’s property in Northeast Harbor where the walls are covered with art. “She loved the traditional Japanese screens, but she wanted to do her own thing.” 

Creating art was a consistent part of Peabody’s life, Swetzoff recalled, but considering how it all started, there was one curious detail. 

“It was interesting that she had done all of these life drawings but almost never put figures in her paintings,” she said. “She pretty much would paint everywhere she went.” 

Sarah Hinckley

Sarah Hinckley

Former Islander reporter Sarah Hinckley covered the towns of Southwest Harbor, Tremont and neighboring islands.

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