New paintings go on view at Stobart Gallery

Esteemed marine painter John Stobart starts a new exhibit of original paintings that includes this view of Menemsha Creek.
Photo courtesy of Maritime Heritage Prints

Esteemed marine painter John Stobart starts a new exhibit of original paintings that includes this view of Menemsha Creek.

Eminent maritime artist John Stobart will pay a visit to the Island Thursday, July 12, for a reception at his North Summer Street gallery in Edgartown. The 81-year-old painter’s visits are not as regular as during the 20 years he summered in the Cow Bay section of Edgartown. A Fort Lauderdale, Fla., resident, he now summers in Westport.

The occasion is a new exhibit featuring 10 of Mr. Stobart’s small oil paintings, as well as a two pencil drawings. One painting captures Menemsha Creek, another shows Nantucket’s Brant Point Light.

Limited-edition prints of his larger paintings will also be on display, including the remaining three reproductions of Vineyard scenes. The other four have sold out, and once a limited edition Stobart print sells out, no more are made, according to Sandy Heaphy, vice-president of Maritime Heritage Prints.

An array of these maritime prints fills the walls in the main rooms of Mr. Stobart’s gallery in what could be a genteel Edgartown house, furnished with fireplace and sofa. The gallery began its Vineyard life more than 25 years ago. Fans of the artist will also find in the gallery copies of his most recent, large-format book, “The Grandeur of America’s Age of Sail,” his DVD “Simplifying Outdoor Painting,” and handsome sets of note cards.

In addition to his Edgartown venue, Mr. Stobart operates the Kensington-Stobart Gallery in Salem. It specializes in 19th-century marine paintings, as well as his own work and that of several contemporary marine artists.

Born in Leicester, England, Mr. Stobart studied at the Royal Academy Schools and quickly developed a reputation for his finely detailed landscapes. He learned early on to use a restricted palette of six colors to ensure harmony in his paintings. On a trip to South Africa, he began sketching ships under construction in the ports where he stopped, and they were bought by shipping companies. Eventually he began creating historically based paintings of 19th-century sailing vessels, harbors, and ports. In 1957, he emigrated to Canada, before moving to the U.S.

Mr. Stobart showed an early and continuing appreciation for the need of artists to market their work in an increasingly commercial world. As a result of the growing popularity of his work, the artist formed a Salem-based corporation, Maritime Heritage Prints, to publish limited-edition reproductions of his paintings so they could reach a mass audience. He became one of the first artists to pursue this activity and the prints earned a reputation for their quality.

In 1987, the artist formed the Stobart Foundation, using profits from his limited edition prints to support worthy art school graduates who paint from life so that they might pursue independent art projects, travel, or otherwise use the grants to launch their careers. The foundation has become Mr. Stobart’s focus in recent years, and it has given away more than $400,000 in scholarships. The painter’s own art education was financed by scholarships.

In the 1990s, Mr. Stobart hosted an acclaimed, 13-part, two-season PBS series, “John Stobart’s WorldView.” DVDs of the series, in which the artist travels to locations around the world to paint and offer tips to aspiring artists, are still offered for sale.

While the gallery’s second floor will house primarily Mr. Stobart’s work during the show that runs from July 12 through August 11, he has opened that space to Meg Mercier, a painter and Edgartown summer resident. Like Mr. Stobart, Ms. Mercier produces limited edition prints and enjoys painting plein air. An admirer of Mr. Stobart’s work, she came to his attention while exhibiting at the Kensington-Stobart Gallery five years ago.

“He really led a path for the traditional painter, when the world had turned its attention to modern art,” Ms. Mercier said. “I have found him inspirational.” She has for several years contributed to the Martha’s Vineyard Community Services fundraiser, the Possible Dreams Auction, by creating a plein-air painting during the event; it is then sold. She serves on the boards of both Featherstone Center for the Arts and M.V. Art Association. The gallery will hold a reception for Ms. Mercier on August 12.

Also on display at the Stobart Gallery are a series of small oils by Melissa Weeks titled “Willy Nillys,” which the artist calls meditations done in a stream-of-consciousness style. The 8- by 8-inch series employs a colorful palette and graphics-oriented images.

Marine sculptures in bronze by Kim Shaklee appear at the gallery as well. A Denver native, Ms. Shaklee displays her wildlife work in galleries across the country and appears in the book, “Sculptors of the Rockies.”

Small Paintings, John Stobart Gallery, opening reception July 12, 5 to 7 pm. For information, visit thejohnstobartgallery.com or call 508-627-9066.