2009 Catalog, William R. Talbot Fine Art, Antique Maps & Prints Home

2009 Catalog > 2. Wescott, “Sloops near Hall Island.”

2. Paul Wescott. “Sloops near Hall Island,” n.d. (1960s). Oil on linen canvas, 10 1/8 x 18 1/8." Frame: 13 5/8 x 21 5/8." Signed at l.l. Old label on verso from Penn Art Center Galleries, Philadelphia. Handsomely presented in a gold leaf frame. Fine.


Sloops near Hall Island is a superb example of Wescott’s ability to create a pervasive mood that extends well beyond the picture frame. As described in the 1960s by critic Dorothy Grafly,

Paul Wescott brings to canvas a sense of quiet seldom found in painting these days. He has the enviable ability to slough off the ferment of present-day living and concentrate on the peace of the sea, sky, and land. These classic concepts are . . . painted in rich, low keyed, and subtle tones. . . [He] seems to have known what he wanted from the beginning. He has changed not in perception, but in the deepening of what he has to say, through quiet, controlled, and yet dramatic simplification.

Paul Wescott (1904-1970) was born in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, and attended the Art Institute of Chicago. He continued his studies at the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts, where he was awarded the prestigious Cresson Scholarship in 1930 for travel and study in Europe. After returning from his travels, Wescott taught art at both the academy and the Hill School in Pottstown, Pennsylvania. Wescott’s early landscapes were drawn from the rural environs of Chester Springs, where the academy held its summer school. When he and his wife Alison began to summer in coastal New Brunswick (1934-39), Wescott introduced marine subjects to his work. Later the Wescotts spent their summers in Maine, where they bought a house on Friendship Long Island in 1946. In 1952, Wescott resigned his teaching position and devoted himself to his art. The Wescotts continued to divide their time between their homes in Maine and West Chester, Pennsylvania. Wescott exhibited his paintings regularly and widely, most notably at the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts, the National Academy of Design, and the Farnsworth Art Museum. He received a number of awards in recognition of the excellence of his work, including the National Academy of Designís Edwin Palmer Prize and Benjamin Altman Prize.

As a student, Wescott would have been exposed to modernist influences both at the academy and in his studies abroad. While Wescott ultimately chose to utilize a subdued palette and focus on landscape painting, modernist qualities that he adopted and made his own are evident in Sloops near Hall Island. The land and sea occupy a narrow band at the bottom of the canvas, with the horizon seeming to balance upon the foreground hill. Likewise, there is an abstract play of simplified forms between the landscape elements and the sailboats. When asked how he works, Wescott replied “. . . to set objects in space with great clarity, simplicity, and understanding. The subject is of least importance, but it so happens that I prefer the sea.

Paul Wescott’s paintings are held in a number of important permanent collections including the William A. Farnsworth Library and Art Museum, the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, the Butler Institute of American Art, the University of Delaware, and the Delaware Art Museum.

Refs.: Pamela J. Belanger, Maine in America: American Art at The Farnsworth Art Museum (Rockland: Farnsworth Art Museum, 1999); Stark Whiteley, Paul Wescott: Landscape and Marine Painter (Chadds Ford: Brandywine River Museum, 1989).

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