Despite its meticulous draftsmanship and precise detail, Lane's work is far more than a simple inventory of harbor activity. The diminutive figures and carefully rendered vessels remain secondary to the vast expanse of sky, where shimmering light creates a tranquil, idyllic mood. Lane's rarefied landscapes epitomize man's harmonious union with the natural world.
Some scholars have used the term "luminism" to describe the artist's subtle use of light and atmospheric effects to convey nature's intangible spirit. Ralph Waldo Emerson, the foremost exponent of American Transcendentalism, believed that poets and painters should serve as conduits through which the experience of nature might be transmitted directly to their audience. With a similarly self-effacing artistic temperament, Lane minimized his autographic presence, using translucent glazes rather than heavily impastoed surfaces to underscore the scene's pervasive stillness. His elegiac paintings differ profoundly from the more explosive exuberance expressed by Cole and Church, though he shared these artists' reverence for nature and their belief in its inherent divinity.
More information on this painting can be found in the Gallery publication American Paintings of the Nineteenth Century, Part I, pages 412-415, which is available as a free PDF at https://www.nga.gov/content/dam/ngaweb/research/publications/pdfs/american-paintings-19th-century-part-1.pdf
lower right: F. H. Lane / 1863
(Harvey Additon, Boston), until c. 1940; Mr. and Mrs. Francis Whiting Hatch, Sr., Boston, and Castine, Maine; gift 1980 to NGA.
- Maine and Its Artists, 1710-1963, Colby College Art Museum, Waterville, Maine; Museum of Fine Arts, Boston; Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, 1963-1964, no. 81.
- Fitz Hugh Lane, The First Major Exhibition, De Cordova Museum, Lincoln, Massachusetts; Colby College Art Museum, Waterville, Maine, 1966, no. 48.
- American Paintings of Ports and Harbors, 1774-1968, Cummer Gallery of Art, Jacksonville, Florida; Norfold Museum of Arts and Sciences, Virginia, 1969, no. 19.
- Fitz Hugh Lane, 1804-1865, The William A. Farnsworth Library and Art Museum, Rockland, Maine, 1974, no. 43.
- American Light: The Luminist Movement, 1850-1875, National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C., 1980, 12, fig. 1, frontispiece.
- A New World: Masterpieces of American Painting 1760-1910, Museum of Fine Arts, Boston; Corcoran Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.; Grand Palais, Paris, 1983-1984, no. 34, repro.
- Paintings by Fitz Hugh Lane, National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.; Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, 1988, no. 61.
- Loan for display with permanent collection, Wadsworth Atheneum, Hartford, Connecticut, 1990.
- America: The New World in 19th-Century Painting, Österreichische Galerie Belvedere, Vienna, 1999, no. 36, repro.
- An Enduring Legacy: Masterpieces from the Collection of Mr. and Mrs. Paul Mellon, National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C., 1999-2000, no cat.
- American Sublime: Landscape Painting in the United States 1820-1880, Tate Britain, London; Museum of American Art of the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, Philadelphia; Minneapolis Institute of Arts, 2002, no. 72, repro. (shown only in London).
- Miller, William B. "Maine and Its Artists." Art Journal 23 (Winter 1963-1964): repro. 160.
- Wilmerding, John. Fitz Hugh Lane, 1804-1865, American Marine Painter. Salem, Massachusettes, 1964: 63, no. 105.
- Fitz Hugh Lane: The First Major Exhibition. Exh. cat. De Cordova Museum. Lincoln, Massachusettes, 1966: no. 48.
- Wilmerding, John. Fitz Hugh Lane. New York, 1971: 76, repro. no. 77.
- Fitz Hugh Lane, 1804-1865. Exh. cat. William A. Farnsworth Library and Art Museum, Rockland, Maine: 1974: no. 43.
- Wilmerding, John. "American Light: The Luminist Movement, 1850-1875; An Exhibition at the National Gallery of Art." Antiques 117 (April 1980): 848, color repro.
- Wilmerding, John. American Masterpieces from the National Gallery of Art. National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C., 1980: no. 26, color repro.
- Williams, William James. A Heritage of American Paintings from the National Gallery of Art. New York, 1981: color repro. 98-99, 120-21.
- Journal of the American Medical Association 248 (1 October 1982): 1553, color repro. cover.
- Walker, John. National Gallery of Art, Washington. Rev. ed. New York, 1984: 549, no. 835, color repro.
- Wilmerding, John. American Marine Painting. Rev. ed. of A History of American Marine Painting, 1968. New York, 1987: 118, color repro. 117.
- Kelly, Franklin. "The Paintings of Fitz Hugh Lane." Antiques 134 (July 1988): 122, color repro. 119.
- Wilmerding, John. American Masterpieces from the National Gallery of Art. Rev. ed. National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C., 1988: 104, no. 29, color repro.
- WIlmerding, John. Paintings by Fitz Hugh Lane. Exh. cat. National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.; Museum of Fine Arts, Boston. Washington, D.C., 1988: 151, no. 61.
- Gingold, Diane J. and Elizabeth A.C. Weil. The Corporate Patron. New York, 1991: 105, color repro.
- Kopper, Philip. America's National Gallery of Art: A Gift to the Nation. New York, 1991: 293, color repro.
- Skolnick, Arnold. ed. Paintings of Maine. New York, 1991: 126, color repro. 40.
- American Paintings: An Illustrated Catalogue. National Gallery of Art, Washington, 1992: 225, repro.
- National Gallery of Art, Washington. National Gallery of Art, Washington, 1992: 237, repro.
- Kelly, Franklin, with Nicolai Cikovsky, Jr., Deborah Chotner, and John Davis. American Paintings of the Nineteenth Century, Part I. The Collections of the National Gallery of Art Systematic Catalogue. Washington, D.C., 1996: 412-415, color repro.
- Hand, John Oliver. National Gallery of Art: Master Paintings from the Collection. Washington and New York, 2004: 324, no. 261, color repro.
The support is a tight, plain-weave fabric that has been lined. The original tacking margins have been retained. A thick layer of pale pink priming was applied by the artist. Infrared reflectography reveals little evidence of distinct underdrawing, although the lower and large yard of the foreground ship was originally positioned slightly lower. The paint layer was thinly applied, with virtually no impasted areas other than in the clouds at left. The surface is slightly abraded, most noticeably in the sea and along the top and bottom edges. The varnish has not discolored, however, numerous areas of inpainting scattered throughout have discolored.