"For me painting has become a stubborn necessity, a reason for existing. I can no longer question (as I once did) its validity....”
Sam Feinstein penned these words to a friend in the Fall of ‘47. He had spent the previous two summers painting in Gloucester. He would return once more to capture the heartbeat of our harbor.
Born in Russia in 1915, Feinstein arrived at Ellis Island with his family when he was five. Raised in Philadelphia, he graduated from the Philadelphia Museum College of Art and at the age of nineteen was awarded his first one-man show at the Philadelphia Art Alliance.
During WWII, Feinstein served in the army, initially in a camouflage battalion until he suggested to his commanding officer, “...my services would be of greater value to the War effort in the work of a pictorial nature, such as visual training aids, motion picture animation, or posters for public information.”
After the war, Feinstein found employment at a documentary film company. He also taught art history and art in the Philadelphia area. His challenge — finding time to paint.
In the summers of 1946, 47, and 48, Feinstein, and his wife, Barbara Crawford, sojourned to Gloucester. The path, well known to giants of American visual art, led to a place where Feinstein could explore the ever-shifting geometry and light of a working harbor.
As Martha Oaks, Curator at the Cape Ann Museum, wrote in Rocky Neck - A Moment in Time (2013):
“Many of the artists who flowed onto Rocky Neck in the wake of World War II were of a new breed, distinctly set apart from earlier generations. Traditional land and seascape painters continued working in the area but increasingly, sprinkled amongst them, was a group of younger artists looking for new subject matter, eager to explore different methods of expression.”
Using casein and watercolors, with pastel highlights, Feinstein captured not only the vividness of place, but the timelessness of its rhythms.
The old port, continually rebuilding itself on the ancient pilings and compromised foundations of what came before, was as unselfconscious as ever - a treasure trove of color, twisted shapes, movement and shifting light for Feinstein's penetrating eye.
After exhibiting in New York, Provincetown, and Philadelphia through the 1950s, Feinstein withdrew from the commercial art world. In turning away from the market’s validation, he could focus, without distraction, on painting and teaching. He taught until his death in 2003 at the age of 88.
Feinstein’s work is in the collections of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, Philadelphia Museum of Art, New Britain Museum of American Art, and the Cape Ann Museum.
The Law & Water Gallery will feature Feinstein’s Gloucester watercolors, many of which are offered for sale for the first time in Cape Ann. The Gallery will also have available a limited edition hardcover art book that captures the life work of Feinstein with over 150 color images.