Paul Dougherty (1877-1947)

Paul Dougherty (1877-1947)

“Few there are who have been content to paint marines solely as interpreting its moods in storm, in restlessness after storm, in mystical beauty of moonlight, in vast spaces and aerial infinities. This individuality of the sea Paul Dougherty has set himself to translate into the terms of his art, and has achieved so much unity of effect that his marines are Homeric in simplicity and in elementary strength.” [1]

                                                                                                -- Edwin A. Rockwell, The International Studio

[1] “Paul Dougherty – Painter of Marines: An Appreciation,” by Edwin A Rockwell, The International Studio, Vol. XXXVI, No. 141, November 1908, p. III.

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Born in Brooklyn in 1877, Paul Dougherty did not always aspire to be an artist; rather he followed in his father’s footsteps and initially pursued a career in law. He attended New York Law School and was admitted to the New York Bar in 1898, but around this time also studied privately with the artist Robert Henri and eventually yielded to his creative side. He went abroad to Europe in 1900, resolved to work and learn on his own by visiting museums and studying the Old Masters, and for the next several years explored England, Holland, Germany, Italy and France, where he exhibited at the Paris Salon.

In 1902, Dougherty married Antje Bertha Lund, a music student he met in Paris, and soon after their return to America the couple settled in Nutley, New Jersey. They welcomed a daughter in 1903, but tragedy struck when Antje passed away just a few weeks later. With a child to look after and, fortunately, the support of his parents, the young widower launched his career in the United States and garnered praise for the marine subjects for which he is today best known. While he experimented with sculpture and also occasionally painted rural landscapes, Dougherty’s dramatic shore scenes were compared to those of Winslow Homer: “It is difficult, in speaking of a marine painter, to avoid the one towering American genius in the field; but there is no doubt that the mantle of Winslow Homer has fallen upon Paul Dougherty.” [1] He was captivated by the ever-changing nature and power of the sea and in capturing these atmospheric elements in his work. During his lifetime, Vose Galleries held several exhibitions, including solo shows in 1914 and 1920, featuring both his Maine scenes and those inspired by the Cornish coast.

Dougherty became a full National Academician, and was also a member of the Society of American Artists, the National Arts Club and the American Water Color Society. He exhibited at many important venues, including the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, the Corcoran Gallery and the National Academy, where he was awarded a gold medal in 1913. In the years following Antje’s untimely passing, Dougherty was twice married and divorced and in 1928 wed his fourth wife, Paula Gates of California, and began spending summers in Carmel and winters in Tucson, Arizona, where the warm, dry climate eased his growing arthritis. He continued producing seascapes, focusing on the rugged coastline of the Pacific, and passed away in Palm Springs in 1947. From March 1978 to February 1979, a traveling retrospective exhibition of Dougherty’s work was held at five museums, including the Portland Museum of Art in Maine and the New Britain Museum of American Art in Connecticut. Today his work can be found in the collections of many institutions, including the Smithsonian American Art Museum, the Art Institute of Chicago, the Cleveland Museum of Art and the Brooklyn Museum, among others.

[1] “The Marines of Paul Dougherty,” by Ameen Rihani, The International Studio, April 1921, p. LV

Reference: See Who Was Who In American Art (1999).  Portland Museum of Art, Paul Dougherty A Retrospective Exhibition, exhibition catalog, 1978.

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