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Old watercolors of Nantucket by Mina Keyes Goddard

Mina Keyes Goddard (bio. info) would have been a young woman of about twenty four years when she painted these thirteen watercolors of Nantucket probably about 1889. The paintings, tucked away in my grandmother's Reading, Vermont house for many decades, show in often meticulous detail the sweep of the moors, the simplicity of the village, and the innocence of summer life at the shore.

Today these memories are almost gone, but perhaps the watercolors can remind us and encourage us to preserve what is left. Please click here to go to the web gallery of her paintings. (The page has many small images, so please be patient.)

When did she paint them? I can date one to 1889, and details in the others are consistent with this date. It takes some detective work for, as you will see, she was an extremely careful artist with a historian's eye for detail, a steady hand, a fine brush, and infinite patience. That means one can date her paintings by comparing her work with photographs in such sources as Clay Lancaster's two books on 19th century Nantucket or the archives of the Phillips Library at the Peabody Essex Museum. Until September 2001, this research suggested that they were painted between the mid-1880s (when the Nantucket Railroad built tracks at the edge of the harbor and when the Nantucket Hotel was named) and 1903 (when the new Brant Point lighthouse was built). I had estimated that they had been painted about 1890. I was delighted to get word from the Phillips Library and Mystic Seaport that a temporary tower shown in her painting of Sankaty Light had only existed for a few months in 1889. More clues may be there for others to discover. I would appreciate information.

I hope this slender portfolio will add to the historical and artistic record of what was a unique place, and that my friends who love Nantucket will find them as beautiful and interesting as I do. Thank you, Miss Goddard. May the paintings somehow help to restore the moors, to protect the town, and to save what's left of Nantucket from being wealthified to death. Comments welcomed at <sfe<at>post.harvard.edu>. Please click here to go to gallery of her paintings.   (Updated, August 2002.)

 

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