THE COUNTRY’S OLDEST ARTS COLONY CONTINUES TO INSPIRE
Twenty-three miles east of the Cape Cod Canal, on a natural spiral of sand, sits the oldest continuous arts colony in the United States.
Provincetown, at the tip of Cape Cod, Mass., is drenched in oceanic light that is a painter’s paradise. Artists began to discover its beauty in 1873 after expanded rail service brought them to an unspoiled fishing village.
It was painter and teacher Charles Hawthorne (1872-1930) who attracted thousands of people to the Cape Cod School of Art, which he founded in 1899. Revered as a great teacher, he shaped his tenets around the French Impressionist School, the academic standard for training painters. His students learned using only a palette knife working from a model sitting on the beach. The weekly critiques, held in the Hawthorne barn atop Miller Hill, became legend. Other teachers of note, with schools of their own, were E. Ambrose Webster and Ross Moffett.
A great influx of aspiring and accomplished painters came to the tip of Cape Cod in the early 20th century; cheap rents and the end of travel abroad during World War I made Provincetown a very desirable destination. The growing need for an art association became apparent, and on August 22, 1914, a group of innovative women within the Nautilus Club created the PAA (Provincetown Art Association) with support from the town’s bankers and local community leaders.