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Eleanor Parke Custis   Click Images to Enlarge






Eleanor Parke Custis

(American 1897-1983)

Eleanor Parke Custis is known as being among the finest female painters emanating from Cape Ann, Massachusetts. Famous for her gouaches of quaint streets, active beaches, wharves, and harbors, Custis fearlessly explored color as she academically and accurately constructed her subjects with the flare and spontaneity of an impressionist. Her sense of design was impeccable and innovative. She was particularly fascinated by the ever-changing intricacies of Gloucester harbor.

Born in Washington DC in 1897, Eleanor Parke Custis is a direct descent of Martha Washington. From 1915-1925 she trained under Edmund C. Tarbell at the Corcoran School of Art. She also studied with Henry Snell during the summers of 1924 and 1925 in Boothbay Harbor, Maine. Such extensive training culminated in a solo exhibition in 1925 at the Washington Art Club. From 1926-1929, she extensively traveled doing watercolors in France, Holland, Italy and Switzerland. In 1933 she visited Cairo and in 1937 and 1938 she was in Central and South America. By the mid-thirties, her interest in painting waned as her passion of photography intensified, and in 1935 she wrote and illustrated a book, "Composition and Pictures." By the mid-forties, she was entrenched in photography and was given a solo exhibition in 1946 at the Brooklyn Institute. She began spending more time at her beloved summer residence in Gloucester and in 1960 she moved there permanently from her home in Georgetown.

From 1924-1935 Custis was most active as a painter, etcher, illustrator, and miniaturist. She was a member of the following institutions: American Watercolor Society; National Arts Club; Washington Watercolor Club; Society of Washington Artists; North Shore Arts Association; New Haven Paint and Clay Club; Boston Art Club; National Association of Woman Painters and Sculptors; New York Watercolor Club; American Society of Miniature Painters; Washington Art Club. Her exhibition history is dually impressive, as she had numerous one-woman exhibitions in New York, Washington, and Boston.

This gouache is among Custis' finest and most successful renderings of Gloucester harbor. The imposing, sophisticated composition is spontaneously laid down and is taken from an elevated perspective, highlighted by fluid angularities found within the reflections and the placement of boats with men at work. The composition is further enhanced by a dynamic use of color, splashed with the bravado of an impressionist. Such traits are reminiscent of Custis' friend and fellow female master, Jane Peterson.


References: Who's Was Who in American Art; Tyvser, T., Small Masterpieces (2001); Rice, Sue, The Sellars Collection (2001); Sternberg, P., Art by American Women (1991)