Edward Potthast 1857-1927

Rockbound Coast, Ogunquit

  • 25 x 30 inches (63.5 x 76.2 cm)
  • Oil on canvas
  • Signed lower left: E Potthast

Why We Love It

Potthast is best known for his sunny and lighthearted beach scenes executed in the loose and colorful style of the American Impressionists. In this remarkable depiction of Maine’s rugged shore, Potthast has emphasized the warm glow of the afternoon sun striking the rocky coast. Painted rapidly with bold and energetic brushwork, this delightful picture is typical of Potthast’s pleasant cheerful style, which was so popular in his own time and remains so today.

The Value

Potthast’s beach scenes were as collectible during his own lifetime as they are today. This particular scene is different from his pictures of bathers frolicking in the surf, but it still captures the joie de vivre that characterizes his most famous paintings. American Impressionist paintings such as this one will always be sound investments, as the fine quality of such a good thing makes it a true treasure.

Artist Background

1857: Born in Cincinnati, Ohio. Received early artistic training at McMicken School of Design, while supporting himself as a lithographer and illustrator; 1882-85: Traveled to Europe. Studied briefly in Antwerp, then for 3 years in Munich; 1885: Returned to Cincinnati, where he resumed work as an illustrator. Took evening classes at the Cincinnati Museum Association; 1887-1890: Traveled to Europe, dividing time between Munich and Paris; 1890: Visited Grez, where he met Robert Vonnoh and Roderick O’Conor. Both artists encouraged him to begin painting landscapes in an Impressionist style; 1892: Returned to Cincinnati; 1896: Moved to New York City. Supported himself as an illustrator, but also became a lively figure in New York art circles. Began painting joyful beach scenes, which won him great success; 1896-27: Spent summers in such resort areas of Gloucester, Rockport, Cape Cod, Ogunquit and Monhegan, where he painted some of his most successful paintings; 1897: Exhibited at the National Academy of Design (NAD) for the first time; 1899: Awarded NAD’s Thomas B. Clarke prize for best figure painting; 1906: Elected full member of NAD; 1927: Died.

Edward Potthast is best known for his sunny and lighthearted beach scenes executed in the loose and colorful style of the American Impressionists. Potthast found endless variety among this subject matter, frequently depicting children frolicking in the surf, young mothers strolling along the beach, or families picnicking together on the sand. In addition, as in Rockbound Coast, Ogunquit, Potthast occasionally focused purely on the landscape, emphasizing the warm glow of the afternoon sun striking the rocky coast of Maine’s rugged shore. The only two figures in the painting are relegated to the distant edge of the cliff, staring out at a tiny ship on the far-off horizon.

However, Potthast did not actually begin fully exploring this subject matter in the light open manner of the Impressionists until later in his career, around 1900 to 1903. Prior to this shift in style, Potthast’s work was more in line with the dark tonalities of the Munich School, and in fact, he studied in Munich for three years during one of his many trips to Europe. It was during another stay in Europe that Potthast came under the influence of the French Impressionists. His palette began to lighten and he concentrated on capturing the effects of sunlight by working outdoors, making small sketches on site that he later developed into larger paintings in the studio. In choosing which locations to paint, Potthast focused particularly on the New England coast, spending his summers in Annisquam, Gloucester, and Provincetown, Massachusetts. Later, Potthast travelled farther north into Maine, executing a number of paintings around Monhegan Island and Ogunquit, such as this marvelous example, typical of his pleasant cheerful style. In fact, it was this very quality that made his work so popular. As a writer from the New York Sun remarked in 1921, “Thanks, Mr. Potthast, you say, life isn’t so terrible after all.”