American painter Fitz Henry Lane was born on the Gloucester Peninsula in Massachusetts, which left an indelible mark on his artistry. While other painters of his era were entranced by the violent power of the sea, Lane’s pieces often display a calmer side of the ocean, such as in “Salem Harbor.”
Lane’s artistic career began in 1832, when he moved to Boston to serve as an apprentice at the William and John Pendleton lithographic firm. At the time, lithography was a new technology that allowed for inexpensive reproduction of drawings and text. Lithography companies preferred to recruit aspiring painters because the process was more akin to painting than engraving, which had previously been the most popular medium for artistic representations. The result of this preference, as author James A. Craig writes, was that “American lithographic workshops had inadvertently come to serve as impromptu art academies for young men desiring to follow the calling of the artist, yet unable to travel to Europe or afford tuition at New York’s National Academy of Design or Philadelphia’s Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts.” In fact, lithography jump-started the careers of several famous American painters, including Alfred Jacob Miller and Winslow Homer. (1)
It was while working at Pendleton’s that Lane started including discreet signatures in his lithographs, something he would continue to do later in his career as a painter. His signature always appears in his work as “F. H. Lane”, “Fitz H. Lane”, or “F.H.L”, leading to the assumption that the “H” stood for “Hugh.” This assumption became the norm long after Lane’s death, up until 2005, when researchers in Gloucester unearthed an 1831 letter from the artist to the Commonwealth of Massachusetts requesting a name change to “Fitz Henry Lane.” It is now thought that the artist never went by Hugh at all, leading to awkward changes for the National Museum of Art and his statue in Gloucester, Massachusetts. (2)
Following a successful stint at Pendleton’s Lithography, Lane went on to become one of America’s most renowned seascape painters, painting works such as "Brace’s Rock," "Salem’s Harbor," and "Clipper Ship." Lane’s work continues to be valuable to this day: in 2004 “Manchester Harbor” set the record for a Fitz Henry Lane piece, selling for $5.5 million. (3)
Contributed by Kane Thomas
Craig, James A. “Fitz H. Lane: An Artist’s Voyage Through Nineteenth-Century America”.
McCarthy, Gail. “Oh Henry, Oh Fitz Hugh Lane by Another Name". "The Fenceviewer". March 2, 2006. <http://fenceviewer.com/site/index.php?option=com_k2&view=item&id=78599:oh-henry-fitz-hugh-lane-by-another-name&Itemid=941&tmpl=component&print=1>.
Starr, Robin. “Auction Highlights Part II: The $5.5 million World Record” < http://www.skinnerinc.com/news/blog/world-record-auction-fitz-henry-lane-painting-manchester-harbor/>.