"Paint in verbs, not in nouns."

Vose Galleries
Jul 17, 2019 7:39PM

Some may recall the 'Our Best to You' series, which Vose Galleries produced in 2002, 2008, and 2011. The series presented a notable selection of works of art from our inventory. We've decided to reinstate the series to celebrate works that we believe deserve special attention. This edition, written by Gallery Director Carey Vose, features Vose Galleries' long relationship with artist Charles H. Woodbury.

Carey Vose, Gallery Director

As a child, I have fond memories of 238 Newbury Street being like my second home. Back then, the business included not just my parents and uncle Terry, but my great uncle Mort and aunt Ruth, and my grandparents Bob and Ann Vose. Elsie Oliver, my godmother who was a fixture for almost 60 years at the gallery, was always so kind and welcoming, and the staff was like family.

Charles Woodbury, The Bath House, Ogunquit, Maine. Private Collection of Abbot and Marcia Vose (not for sale)

The conversations at family events inevitably revolved around paintings and collecting, favorite artists and artistic movements, and then of course the chicanery of the art world in general. The older generation favored early American portraits and landscapes for the most part, while my uncle and parents became enthralled by the early American Impressionists and modernists living and painting in New England. I was always fascinated to listen in on these discussions at an early age, which I feel has given me a well-rounded appreciation of a wide range of artistic movements. Going on to study not only art history but studio art in college further broadened this appreciation, and having a background in actually creating artwork has given me a perspective unique among the various family members who have worked at the gallery.

Charles Woodbury is a stand-out artist whose genius has been appreciated by four generations of the Vose family. Born in Lynn, Massachusetts, Woodbury attended and graduated with a degree in Mechanical Engineering from MIT. Against his father's wishes, Woodbury went on to pursue a career in art and never looked back. He married Marcia Oakes, a fellow artist, and together they traveled to Europe where Woodbury studied at the Academy Julien in Paris in the 1890s. When they returned to the states, they bought land in Ogunquit, Maine and opened the Woodbury School of Painting and Drawing in 1898. Woodbury was instrumental in founding the artist's colony in Ogunquit at that time, and art students from the Art Students League in New York as well as the School of the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston flocked to Ogunquit each summer to study with him. Woodbury was a colorist who was obsessed with painting motion, and taught his students to "Paint in verbs, not in nouns," (Disreputable Remarks by Charles H. Woodbury, unpublished manuscript, Vose Galleries archives). The ocean and rustic environs of Ogunquit were his muse, and he exhibited his works in over 100 solo exhibitions during his lifetime, one being an exhibition at Vose Galleries in 1912. His paintings were exhibited and won prizes from a number of the top arts academies, clubs and arts societies, and his work is currently in a number of public collections across the country including the Ogunquit Museum of American Art, The Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, the Indianapolis Museum of Art, and the Smithsonian American Art Museum.

Charles Woodbury, The Bath House, Ogunquit, Maine. Private Collection of Abbot and Marcia Vose

Our family has had a special relationship not only with Charles, but with three generations of the Woodbury family. In the 1970s the gallery was honored to handled the artist's estate, and since that time we have handled hundreds of the artist's best paintings, as well as the work of his most talented students, Gertrude Fiske, Mabel May Woodward, and Anne Carlton. My parents have owned at least six of his paintings over the years, with The Bath House, Ogunquit, Maine, painted in 1924, being their pride and joy (photograph of the finished painting, above, and photograph of the artist at work on the piece, below). Personally I am drawn to the artist's innovative, fluid use of color and brushwork, and feel he can transform even the most mundane subject matter into something exciting and fresh. His work is as modern and innovative today as it was at the turn of the century.

The artist at work on The Bath House, Ogunquit, Maine

We have a wonderful collection of work currently on view by the artist, including two important pieces depicting swimmers in Perkins Cove, a lovely Ogunquit beach scene, and numerous undulating seascapes and landscapes of the Ogunquit environs. I hope you will stop in the gallery to learn more about this unique painter, and have the opportunity to view his stunning paintings in person.

Vose Galleries