NEW YORK, NY -- Frank Henry Shapleigh was born in Boston in 1842 and took his first artistic training at the Lowell Institute of Drawing, which offered free instruction. His studies were interrupted by the Civil War, and in 1863 he enlisted in the 45th Massachusetts Regiment, with which he served for 9 months. After the war he continued his training in Paris, where he studied under the Barbazon painter Emile Laminet. It may have been Laminet who introduced Shapleigh to the genre of barnyard and rural scene painting, which would make up a large part of his oeuvre.
Shapleigh was a bit of a wanderer. Following his training in Paris he traveled in Europe for an additional three years, and when he returned to the States he would continue this habit of travel. Although he is known as a painter of the White Mountains in New Hampshire, he painted in throughout the Northeast, including in Maine, where The Old Grist Mill, Limington, Maine, of 1884 was completed. He also traveled as far west as Yosemite in California, and he regularly wintered in St. Augustine, Florida.
Shapleigh had a studio at Crawford House, a popular resort at Crawford Notch in the White Mountains. There he sold his paintings to the tourists who were escaping the cities of New York and Boston in search of the charms of rural life. The paintings were often wide vistas of the surrounding mountains, but they also included more intimate views of small mills and wells, kitchens, barns and barnyards. These quaint scenes must have conjured the ideal of a simpler time slipping away. Shapleigh offered his clients souvenirs of their journeys, but also romantic images of the vanishing American frontier.
In The Old Grist Mill, Limington, Maine, we see a small gaggle of geese on the near bank of a stream with the mill on the far shore. The white geese stand in contrast to the darker landscape that they inhabit. Their view, like our own, is directed at the mill across the water. The scene is painted with a directness and candor that reflect Shapleigh’s method of working en plein air. As in many of the artist’s evocations of American country life, the overall effect of the painting is one of calm and perhaps nostalgic longing.
Property from Chateau Ridge, Greenwich
The February 24, 2021 auction of Property from Chateau Ridge, Greenwich, features The Old Grist Mill, Limington, Maine, by Frank Henry Shapleigh.