In recognition of the 50th anniversary of painter James Fitzgerald’s death in 2021, the James Fitzgerald Legacy at the Monhegan Museum of Art & History has released the first volume from the James Fitzgerald catalogue raisonné project, entitled James Fitzgerald: The Drawings and Sketches. This first in-depth presentation of Fitzgerald’s preliminary studies discusses his drawing process and enables readers to experience the evolution of Fitzgerald’s process from initial sketch to finished work.
“James Fitzgerald was not interested in self-promotion. He left the issue of his legacy to others, believing it would be taken care of after he died. He lived according to a basic philosophic tenet that held that if the work were good, it would survive, and if not, it shouldn’t,” said author Robert L. Stahl. “The James Fitzgerald Legacy hopes that this volume will continue the process that he left to others, allowing greater public accessibility while promoting further interest in and knowledge of his work.”
Written by Robert L. Stahl, Director of the James Fitzgerald Legacy at the Monhegan Museum of Art & History, the 340-page catalogue is illustrated with more than 750 images. The book brings together images from multiple sources, reflecting Fitzgerald’s wide range of subject matter from locations such as Maine’s Monhegan Island and Mount Katahdin, Ireland, New York, and others. The catalogue highlights rarely seen sketches from collections at the Smithsonian Archives of American Art in Washington, D.C. and the Monhegan Museum of Art & History, and presents them alongside the corresponding paintings allowing for greater access to Fitzgerald’s work by the general public.
James Fitzgerald: The Drawings and Sketches includes contributions by E. Bruce Robertson, Professor of History of Art and Architecture and Director of the Art, Design & Architecture Museum at UC Santa Barbara, and Karen A. Sherry, an independent art historian specializing in American art. The catalogue is available for $95.
About the James Fitzgerald Legacy at the Monhegan Museum of Art & History
The Monhegan Museum of Art & History was given the James E. Fitzgerald Estate by Anne M. Hubert, his surviving heir, in 2003. The estate includes the Hubert Collection of paintings by James Fitzgerald, the artist’s library, and an archive of original papers and artist’s materials pertaining to his life and work, along with his house and studio on Monhegan, which were built and occupied by artist Rockwell Kent during the first decade of the 20th century.
Anne M. and Edgar F. Hubert, close friends and patrons of Fitzgerald’s during his lifetime, became his heirs and benefactors at his death. They catalogued his output, promoted his art, organized solo exhibitions, and worked diligently to place his work in museums. Largely through their efforts, more than 150 of Fitzgerald’s paintings are part of 28 museum collections from Maine to Alaska. In 1992, the Huberts donated a treasure trove of the artist’s ephemera and sketchbooks to the Smithsonian’s Archives of American Art in Washington, D.C.
The James Fitzgerald Legacy operates within the framework of the Monhegan Museum of Art & History to preserve, protect, and promote the artist’s estate. In 2009, the Legacy initiated a catalogue raisonné project to identify and document all extant work by Fitzgerald. Through this process, the Legacy has developed a database that preserves information about the artist’s history along with detailed information regarding his work. To date, more than 2,350 works have been documented. In 2012, the Legacy launched its website, JamesFitzgerald.org, where entries from the catalogue raisonné are presented in a searchable format. Approximately 900 works have been added to this website, allowing a wide audience unprecedented access to James Fitzgerald’s work.
About artist James E. Fitzgerald
James E. Fitzgerald (1899-1971) was born in Boston, Massachusetts. By the age of four, his parents recognized his artistic talents and built a studio space for him in the family’s attic. After serving in the U.S. Marine Corps from 1918-1919, Fitzgerald enrolled first in the Massachusetts School of Art (1919-1923) and subsequently attended the School of the Museum of Fine Arts, both in Boston (1923-24). In 1924, he made his first visit to Monhegan Island.
In 1928, Fitzgerald sailed as an able-bodied seaman on the Dorothy Luckenbach out of New York City, working his way to the West coast. Although he had intended to reach Alaska, his travels took him to Monterey, California, where he settled, married, and built a home and studio. While in Monterey, he became a part of the circle of friends who gathered at the Cannery Row marine biology laboratory of Edward ‘Doc’ Ricketts. The group included John Steinbeck, Krishnamurti, John Cage, and Joseph Campbell, among others. He continued to travel east and paint on Monhegan during those years, and he eventually decided to settle there in 1943. Its remoteness led to the dissolution of his marriage, and Fitzgerald, who in the 1940s had exhibited at Vose Gallery in Boston, gradually withdrew from the commercial art world.
On Monhegan, Fitzgerald became part of the year-round community, purchasing first the studio and then the house built by Rockwell Kent in the first decade of the 20th century. For the last 25 years of his life, Fitzgerald visited Mt. Katahdin in the off-season to paint, and in the late 1960s he visited Ireland several times, where he died on the island of Aranmore suddenly in April 1971.
JAMES FITZGERALD: THE DRAWINGS AND SKETCHES by Robert L. Stahl
Selections from the Catalogue Raisonné, Volume I with contributions by E. Bruce Robertson and Karen A. Sherry. Design by Mahan Design, Bowdoinham, Maine. Printing by Penmor Lithographers, Lewiston, Maine. $95 * ISBN: 978-0-692-89994-6 Hardcover * 340 pages, with 250 color illustrations.
For more information or to request a copy of the catalogue, please contact us.
About the Monhegan Museum of Art & History
The Monhegan Museum of Art & History is located in the historic Monhegan Island Light Station, 12 nautical miles off the coast of Maine and was created to steward and showcase the art and artifacts that represent the collective values of its community and to educate and communicate its meaning. The Monhegan Lighthouse Keeper’s House contains exhibits of Monhegan’s history. The Assistant Keeper’s House has an art gallery that displays annual art exhibitions featuring the museums’ art collection that spans more than 150 years. Additionally, the Rockwell Kent/James Fitzgerald Historic Artists’ Home and Studio display a collection of works by Fitzgerald. The museum is open daily from June 24 through September and the Kent/Fitzgerald Home and Studio are open two days a week and by appointment throughout the summer.
1 Lighthouse Hill
Monhegan, ME 04852