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The Human Touch

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The cluster of towns and communities known as Gloucester, Rockport, Brier Neck, Pigeon Cove, Lanesville, Folly Cove and so on are designated on the maps under the joint name of Cape Ann, which forms a little knob at the northeast corner of Massachusetts. Nature gave this small part of the world a rocky beauty the like of which I have never before seen. Nature also strewed the coast line with generous sandy beaches and cast into the surrounding waters vast quantities of fishes, so that those places became centers of the fishing trade, Boston and Cape Cod of course excepted. These places therefore are rich in the symbols of the fisherman’s craft and trade — wharves and boats and nets drying in the sun and cargoes of men going out to bring back cargoes of fish, fish in such huge heaps that prices go tumbling down and even the fishermen have cause to regret Nature’s insane lavishness.

The sea that heaps schools of mackerel on the wharves of Gloucester is instrumental also in bringing afoot to Gloucester and to the other cities of the Cape schools of artists, veterans and amateurs, Gentiles and Jews. On a sunny day one may see from five to fifteen artists working on paper or canvas before a single spot of scene or picturesqueness formed by the juxtaposition of house and dock, or dock and boat, or any other one of the innumerable clusters of animate and inanimate nature that can delight an artist’s eye. Should Rockport, for example, be emptied one day of all its artists, the town would seem deserted. The year round Cape Ann lives chiefly on fish; during the summer, on fish, art and tourists.


In last Thursday’s paper I wrote about the evidences of anti-Semitism over which I had tripped during my brief vacation in this part of Massachusetts. But it is a curious thing that in the world of the artists who summer and work on Cape Ann there is something like a confraternity within which no race line is drawn, so far as I could see during my brief stay. This is not to say that there are not cliques and groups and differences of opinion among the artists, and envy of the successful and contempt for the incompetent and the dilettantes who take themselves too seriously. The lines are clearly enough drawn along the lines of the academic and the modern, the successes and the failures, but not, so far as I could see, along the lines of race, or religion, or nationality.

I did not go out of New York on a vacation in order to seek out New York artists. Had I tried to seek I would have found many, many more than I did. But, incidentally to the effort of enjoying myself, I met the following artists of Jewish name and descent: Irving Lehman (no relation to the Lehmans in politics, finance and law), Frank C. Kirk (Jewish in spite of his name), Abraham Walkowitz, Jacob Moscowitz, Boris Deutsch, William Meyerowitz, Theresa Bernstein (Mrs. William Meyerowitz in private life) and Joseph Margulies.

Of these, Walkowitz is the only one who neither teaches nor paints. The small, plump, grey-haired veteran of the palette wanders around Gloucester, sometimes in a sword fisherman’s cap, storing up sunlight and rest for the Fall and Winter months in Manhattan and Brooklyn. He discovered Gloucester, he tells me, way back in 1900, when Winslow Homer was in his prime. Of course Gloucester is somewhat older than that, for I noticed that one of the banks on Main street was founded so far back as 1792. But for anyone visiting the Cape Walkowitz is a good man to know, for he can discover more sights and vistas for you in an hour than you can find for yourself in a week.


Around the Meyerowitzes there cluster an interesting group of painters young and old who crowd their home on Saturday evenings and make the rafters ring with general discussion and specific laughter. Mr. Meyerowitz and Miss Bernstein not only teach but paint and some of their finest canvasses are of Cape Ann scenes. From my own brief experience I am led to regard their home on Mount Pleasant avenue in East Gloucester as one of the most pleasant oases I have ever drunk a cup of tea in.

But the greatest surprise of these was Jacob Moscowitz, an artist and yet not an artist as we understand the word, for the simple reason that he does not make a living from his art, but from his architecture, which is his trade and profession. He paints water colors because it gives him joy to do so and because it keeps his hand in, at the least, manual dexterity. I was regaled one evening at his summer cottage by a view of the water colors he had completed, up to that time, during the summer, and having written “regaled,” there is nothing further to say, except in extension of the remark and that I shall leave to the professional art critics against the time when Mr. Moscowitz may be persuaded to show his performances in public.

It was at his cottage that I saw perhaps the most eloquent example of interest in art transcending minor barriers. There is a teacher and painter who spends his summers at Brier Neck and Rockport, a non-Jew by the name of Delbos. He is not particularly aware of himself as a non-Jew, nor of other artists as Jews. One evening he brought over for our inspection a portfolio of the water colors which he had painted during the summer. Every person other than himself was Jewish, most of them painters, a few mere appreciators. From his purely Jewish audience—numbering seven—he obtained more appreciation, and more intelligent appreciation, than he had probably been able to obtain from members of his own race. There was not in him or in any other one of us the least sense of a racial barrier. Perhaps I was the more sensitized to that aspect of the evening since I had noted too frequently the bared—although not used—claws of Jew-haters.

Before the evening was over this artist sought to persuade us that he, too was probably Jewish, by descent from those Jews who by taking refuge in the mountains of Spanish and French Basque had escaped persecution. Certainly he has a keen relish for Jewish cooking, sharing, every fortnight, the Friday evening meals of the pious family of one of his models. It is from the lips of this artist, partly of French and partly of English descent, that we heard a panegyric on the uses of olive oil so convincing that we have since been pouring a little of the golden fluid on our hitherto un-oiled salads.

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