LANE, Fitz Henry (1804-65, artist and publisher)
Castine From Hospital Island 1855
Boston: Joseph L. Stevens Jr., 1855. Large tinted lithographed panorama of Castine Harbor and the peninsula town. Lithograph by Lane, printed by L.H. Bradford & Co. Sheet size: (26 1/2 x 36 3/8 inches).
A magnificent view of Castine by Fitz Henry Lane, considered the artist's finest work, and his last great lithograph.
Fitz Henry Lane is one of the greatest American lithographers and marine landscape painters. These two interests merged in the present work, a beautiful lithographic print of Castine, Maine. The print shows the town from the east, across the water from Hospital Island, with Fort George visible on top of the hill above the town, as is the distinctive steeple of the First Parish Church. Lane knew the town well as a popular destination for visitors. He drew the picture onto stone himself, and his interest in Castine continued with a large panorama of the town that he produced, also published in 1855. As early as 1851, Dr. Joseph Stevens Sr. encouraged Lane to make a print of Castine. Stevens and his son, Joseph Stevens Jr., realized that the only other print of the town (made by an artist named Samuel Homan in the early 1840s) was poorly drawn, and Lane would be able to easily sell his own view of Castine. He exhibited the drawing at a shop in Castine, where he began a subscription campaign to solicit orders for a lithograph, as is evident in a manuscript document recording the names of potential purchasers, now held at the Boston Athenaeum. Prevailing on the community of Castine, and in particular its "absent sons and daughters" who wished to own "a fit memorial of their native place," the artist garnered enough interest in this composition that he could confidently the print to his eager subscribers (Boston Athenaeum, "Subscription Campaigns). 100 prints were issued for the subscribers, with copies today rarely seen on the market, making the present example very desirable. Lane (known, mistakenly, as Fitz Hugh Lane) was born in Gloucester, Massachusetts. He was christened Nathaniel Rogers Lane, but for reasons now unknown changed his name legally in 1831 to Fitz Henry. At the relatively late age of 28, he moved to Boston and apprenticed himself to the lithographer William S. Pendleton, and from 1832 to about 1848 Lane worked to establish himself as both a lithographer and marine landscape painter. He remained with Pendleton from 1832 to 1837, and he then joined the newly formed lithography company of Keith and Moore. Lane next opened his own lithographic shop in partnership with marine painter John W. A. Scott: a business arrangement that continued through summer of 1848, when Lane moved back to Gloucester. He remained in his home town for the rest of his life, a popular and successful marine painter and lithographer. During his life he is known to have produced over forty different prints, from large town views to music sheet covers. Today, his prints are in many museums and are coveted by collectors. A re-evaluation of Lane's accomplishments as an artist began in the mid-20th century, a process that continues today. In recent years the unique qualities of Lane's lithographic work have been appreciated, as in the present example, which displays his sensitivity to gradations of light and a refined draughtsmanship that is virtually unique in 19th-century American lithography.
James Craig, Fitz H. Lane: An Artist's Voyage through Nineteenth-Century America (2006); Boston Athenaeum, "Subscription Campaigns: Contributions in Support of Community" (online exhibition).