Frederick Judd Waugh

One of my first memories of Truro is being taken to see the Congregational Church by my aunt. I doubt that we got out of the car and certainly we didn’t wander the graveyard or the adjacent Snow Cemetery. But a few years later, on one of my rambling, teenage bike rides, I did wander amongst the graves, and remember being struck by the simple wood cross and copper plaque that commemorated Frederick Judd Waugh. I had no idea who he was. 

In fact it would be many years before I learned of Waugh’s work as a painter. I probably first looked him up when I learned that he, not Hans Hofmann, build the spectacular studio on Nickerson Street, known primarily as the ‘Hofmann Studio.’ Although, as David Dunlap writes, Mary Heaton Vorse apparently thought him among America’s greatest marine painters, he’s largely unknown (or at least grossly under-appreciated) today. 

Waugh came from a family of artists — his father being the prominent 19th c. portraitist, Samuel Waugh. His son, Coulton Waugh, continued the tradition (and in Provincetown), as an illustrator or books and comic strips. Mark Murphy Fine Paintings has a good general biography of Waugh on their website.

Waugh’s work feels neatly in conversation with other artists prominent in his generation, particularly the slightly older Winslow Homer and Thomas Eakins.  His maritime paintings capture the grandeur and power of the ocean, as well as the complex interplay of light on water. 

Yesterday, wandering Snow Cemetery, I stumbled again upon Waugh’s grave. The oak cross is now broken by time, and the copper plaque lays neatly at its remaining base. Waugh’s paintings — while full of elemental force — have something of the ephemeral to them. The slow erasure of his marker by weather and time feels fitting, if a little sad. 

Winds And Seas

The Setting Sun

Southwesterly Gale, St. Ives

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