Stranded Brig

Provincetown, MA
Oil on composition board
40 x 50 in. (101.6 x 127 cm)
Signed, dated upper left: "E W Dickinson / 1934.."
Photo: Museum of Fine Arts


Notes: Painted in Provincetown, MA, February, 23, 24, 25, 26 27 (and planning), 28, March 2, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 16, 19, 20, 21, 22, 29, 30, April 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12 ( & mixing piles of paint), 13 (mixing piles), 18, 19,20, 21, 22, 23, 24, 25, 26, 27, 28 "fini 40/50 Govt project", 29 photographed 40/50. Fragment of letter, 1934, probably to Tibi: "My 40/50 for the Gov't is progressing fast & well for me. Pay raised to $38.25 [from $30] per week." The piece was done in 75 sittings (often more than one sitting a day).

COH: "'Stranded Brig' . . . was entirely made up, invented. . . . "And having been an observer of rocks and an enjoyer of cliffs and waterfalls for a good many years, I painted them. . . . There are some rocks in the air . . . Where are they coming from? Heaven knows! . . . this was a ship in the Arctic somewhere, evidently an abandoned one . . . It's a two-masted, square-rigged vessel, a brig. I suppose it's the east coast of Greenland. There is evidently a ship from a former stranding. These stairways of course couldn't be, . . . You can see this one and that have fallen to pieces, and it made a pleasant idea. I enjoyed it very much. There's a weasel in a trap down there. That's the only living thing. . . . The sky is lilac, and the forms in the sky are vapor, caused by the air being much colder than the water, and the water gives off a steam. You see it in Provincetown in winter a great deal. They are called vapor days. . . . It rises in wreaths, you know, and moves as a flame does." 168, 169, 170.

To Esther, March 31, 1934: The painting is "I suppose, an historical scene, the final stranding of Dr. Kane's brig 'Advance' on the Greenland coast." [Elisha Kent Kane, 1820-1857, explored northwest Greenland in 1853. He reached the then highest northern latitude]."Excluding the masts of the Brig & the keel & ribs of a whaleboat, the canvas consists solely of sky, rocks, and vapor. These comprise 3 colors, . . . The sky is a very neutral violet, the rocks a very neutral green and the vapor a stronger canary-yellow." Each of these colors [is] in 7 values descending evenly in short steps from a fairly good light to a light dark."

"Vapor Days" were common in Provincetown, e.g. January 23, 1925, December 27, 1925, and he saw one in Sheldrake January 1, 1930 (journal).

ED conversation with HDB: ED detested traps, (would spring them when he found them) and never forgot that once while walking in a Sheldrake glen, he saw ahead a moving animal. Thinking it a skunk he threw stones near it to drive it away. But it did not leave and as he approached he was horrified to see it was a dying trapped weasel. He killed it and released the trap. He also told HDB that the broken steps were remembered from some in Sheldrake.

ED was what he called a "fireside" Arctic explorer and he had about fifty books recounting such explorations. He liked to paint Arctic subjects, but by 1934 his interest was waning and "Stranded Brig" is the last such painting.

March 29, 1956 "To 500 Pk Av . . . 'Stranded Brig' looks very unlike expectations, better, 'close' grey; frame OK." ED noted 75 sittings.


Museum of Fine Arts, Springfield, MA

Exhibition History

1938 Passedoit Gallery: Paintings by Edwin W. Dickinson
1940 Wellesley College: Exhibition of Paintings by Edwin W. Dickinson, as "Shipwreck"
1952 MoMA: 15 Americans
1961 James Graham & Sons: Edwin Dickinson, Retrospective
196163 MoMA: Edwin Dickinson
1965 Whitney: Edwin Dickinson. Major retrospective
1967b PAA: Selections from the Work of Edwin Dickinson
196869 Venice Biennial: The Figurative Tradition in Recent American Art: Edwin Dickinson
1976 Institute of Contemporary Art: A Selection of American Art: The Skowhegan School, 1946-1976
1976 MoMA: The Natural Paradise: Painting in America 1800-1950
1982b NAD: Art Students League Benefit Sale
1985 Smith College: Dorothy C. Miller: With An Eye To American Art