Camryn King holds a Master’s degree in Writing and Digital Communications, as well as a Bachelor’s degree in English Literature with a minor in Art History, from Agnes Scott College. Camryn served as editor and designer of the Aurora Literary Arts Magazine at Agnes Scott, heading the selection process of visual art submissions and the design team for the print version of the magazine. Camryn served as MCMA’s sole curatorial intern during the winter and spring of 2023.
Waves on a Rocky Shore: N.C. Wyeth’s Teels Ledge, Georges Island, Maine and Frederick Judd Waugh’s Rocks and Surf at the Shore
Soar to great heights this fall at the Marietta Cobb Museum of Art by visiting the boardroom exhibition What Are Men to Rocks and Mountains?, featuring artists’ interpretations of mountainous and rocky scenes. This exhibition of paintings from the Marietta Cobb Museum of Art’s permanent collection captures simultaneously the comforting and breathtaking images of mountains and rough terrain. Within this selection, two paintings stand out for their depiction of water as well as the rock formations. N.C. Wyeth’s Teels Ledge, Georges Island, Maine is a calm scene that puts the viewer right on the edge of the dark blue waters. Rocks and Surf at the Shore by Frederick Judd Waugh is a more tumultuous scene with white-capped waves and craggy rocks.
Teels Ledge by N.C. Wyeth is an oil painting on a gesso-covered canvas. Gesso is a kind of primer that protects the canvas and prepares the surface to take on the oil paint. The title, Teels Ledge, refers to the location of the scene off Georges Island in Maine, but it also captures how the large painting positions the viewer on the edge of the rocks, peering out at the water. The painting’s image is almost equally divided between dark blue, deeply saturated water and the pale browns and tans of the rocky ledge. The rocks jut out into the water in a triangular shape, drawing the viewer’s eyes into the center of the canvas and out into the water. Wyeth (1882-1945) was well-known for his illustrations, specifically his work with the Scribner Classics, but he was also a realist painter interested in landscapes and portraits. This particular landscape is likely inspired by his summer home in Port Clyde, Maine in which he restored an old captain’s house and named it “Eight Bells” after a Winslow Homer painting. Although welcoming, Teels Ledge is an ominous painting, enticing the viewer into its large frame and calm waters.
Frederick Judd Waugh’s Rocks and Surf at the Shore is smaller than Wyeth’s piece, but its depiction of a rowdy ocean and rugged rocks still invites the viewer to imagine standing on the rocks and looking out at the endless waves as the wind whips around one’s face. Waugh painted this piece in watercolor and gouache on board. Gouache is also known as opaque watercolor, and both mediums can be challenging to work with because they are water-based mediums that could run on the painting’s surface or soak through and warp paper. An advantage of watercolor and gouache, though, is that the artist can build up lighter layers of color for a more detailed image. Waugh (1861-1940) studied in Pennsylvania and Paris before moving to the island of Sark in the English Channel to become a seascape painter. He also designed ship camouflage for the U.S. Navy during World War I. Rocks and Surf at the Shore is an excellent example of his love for the seaside. Although this painting mostly depicts water, Waugh carefully created a perilous scene with turbulent waves beating weathered, large rocks. The rocks are on the right side of the painting and the waves take up about three-quarters of the left side. Although each of the two elements is distinctive in color and shape, Waugh used similar lines to detail the texture of each. The effect is a cohesive image that captures the waves’ movement and the rocks’ enduring stillness.
While these pieces are part of a larger showing of mountainous paintings, their focus on the water along with rocks makes them notable. Two ancient forces come together in these paintings: the always-moving, forever-changing rhythm of the ocean and the indifferent, unmoving masses of the large rocks. Wyeth and Waugh continued the legacy of these natural elements by immortalizing them in paint, so even after the waves erode the rocks to sand, generations of seaside lovers can appreciate their presence.