Lindsay Leard-Coolidge’s book, A Sense of Place: Painters of Matunuck, Rhode Island, 1873-1941, explores the art made by two extended families over a period of nearly 70 years. Although some have formal training, these artists exist mainly outside the realm of academic art and art’s historical context. Instead their art speaks to the emotional connection they must have felt to this place and to each other.
A Sense of Place begins when Matunuck art colony patriarch Edward Everett Hale is given a summer home in the village of Matunuck and ends shortly after a hurricane devastates the coastline. The nearly 70-year period from 1873 to 1941, considered within the scope of American art history, corresponds with an exciting and dynamic shift in the mode of representation. However exciting this time in art might have been in New York City, the art colony in Matunuck was all but completely removed from these modernist developments. In this way the artists in Matunuck were more akin to the folk art tradition in America.
For Leard-Coolidge ’78 the works of Matunuck, R.I., exist as an expression of the sense of place that the artists experienced. The significance of their art is how it conveys the sense of place that the nine artists felt. Their works are, in large part, landscapes, the products of artists who came of age looking at Realist and Impressionist art. Their understanding of the landscape is evident, as are the ways they influenced each other.