“The Bawdy House Set”
A 19th Century Art Colony at Scituate, Massachusetts, 1889-1910

The never-before-told story of 14 talented friends: 7 artists, 2 poets, 1 novelist, 1 humorist, 1 photographer, 1 sculptor, and 1 architect. And their extraordinary adventures in Boston, Paris, Giverny, Scituate, and New York.

In 1891 a handful of American painters showed up at Giverny, outside Paris. They were young, sheltered, and well-off. But they encamped at the very middle-class Hotel Baudy, often bartering their artwork for a night’s stay.

 

In good-natured jest the young Americans nicknamed the hotel the “bawdy house.” They grabbed at every opportunity to paint and carouse and paint some more!

Claude Monet had come to Giverny in 1883 to paint in solitude. Soon a small army of artists, artist wannabees, and international socialites were swarming around him like so many unwelcome gnats. He pretty much ignored the Americans---except those with money and connections---who could help sell his painting abroad.

Four women painters, Josephine Miles Lewis, Alice Beckington, Eleanor Richards, and Mariquita Gill, had studied at the Academie Julian, in Paris, as well as sculptor Cyrus Dallin, (under Henri Chapu.) Other of their contemporaries,

 

Thomas Buford Meteyard and Dawson Watson-Dawson studied at the Academie Colorossi, and in private study with Leon Bonnat, Carolus-Duran and Edmond Aman-Jean. Most of these young artists then worked at Giverny between 1889 and 1897.

And then they were gone!

But each fall---for more than a decade---they reassembled on Ancient Meeting House Hill in the little seacoast town of Scituate, Massachusetts to reconvene the “Bawdy House Set.”

Invited to Scituate, Massachusetts, Lewis, Beckington, Gill, Meteyard, Dawson-Watson, and Dallin, worked in the fall, and early winter months, between 1894 and 1915. They were joined by other graduates of Boston art schools, and an ever-growing social component.

They painted bold images of nearby salt marshes and sandy beaches in bright post-impressionist colors the shocked the

 

locals. They painted portraits of each other and of every local child who could be bribed to sit still long enough and, at night, they amused themselves with elaborate costume balls and theatricals.

This “swell” life in turn attracted a glamorous entourage of celebrated writers, composers, sculptors, photographers, and craftsmen to the newly-established “colony.”

And then came the Great War; WWI-the “war to end all wars.”

The Meeting House Hill Colony would never be the same again!

 

 

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Search
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Lost Painting
Uncovers
Tragic WWI
Back-story

Found in photo album presented to the Scituate Town Library by painter Josephine Miles Lewis in the 1960’s, is a tattered sepia photograph of a oil painting by Ms. Lewis of a beautiful young lady.  “Marian Dix, Greenbush,” is written in faded pencil on the back.
The album was compiled in the late 1940’s to record works Ms. Lewis had completed from the early 1920’s onwards. The photographs were taken to record her works for insurance purposes, and are testament to her using them as future reference as they have multiple tack holes in their corners, and some are smeared with oil from her palette. 

 

The Dix family had lived in Greenbush (Scituate,) MA, since the early 1900’s as summer residents. Roger Sherman Dix was a prominent Boston wool merchant. During the winter they lived in a rambling turn-of-the-century house at 40-42 Crafts Road, in Chestnut Hill (Brookline,) MA, which Roger Dix and his wife Louise (Parrish) Dix, and their two children, Roger, Jr. and Marian, shared with two aunts, Evelyn and Florence (who taught history at the Girl’s Latin School).
The family also had a six-story town house at 208 Beacon Street, in Boston, and the summer house on Country Way, (now Neal Gate Lane) in Greenbush, MA. Built in 1742 for Judge John Cushing, 2nd , on lands settled by the Vassall family, the Greenbush house had been sold in 1842 to David Briggs, whose son sold it to Roger Sherman Dix. 
In the 1930’s the family relocated to 166 North Street in Hingham, MA, to an elegant brick-end Federalist house built in 1800. Both Roger and Louise Dix died in Hingham, MA in 1942.
We have no current information about the whereabouts of Marian Dix.

 

The Scituate, MA-based 19th Century Art Colony’s “Meeting House Hill Project” is trying to locate this hauntingly-beautiful painting..
And by taking advantage of innovations in digital technology, and "virtual museum" software, the project is starting to display on-line, a comprehensive “collection” of the works by a remarkable “colony" of painters, sculptors, designers, photographers, architects, writers, composers, musicians, actors, and craft persons, as well as the international posse of wealthy “Bohemians” whom it attracted --- to the small Massachusetts coastal town of Scituate, twenty-five miles South of Boston, from 1889 until the onset of World War I.
To date, more than 850 images of works---many now lost, have been compiled.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Roger Sherman Dix, Jr.

Born on December 9, 1896, in Boston, Massachusetts, Roger Sherman Dix, Jr., was the educated at the Country Day School and Harvard University, Class of 1918.
He joined the American Ambulance Field Service on July 23, 1917, as a member of the “Harvard Regiment,” and, after training at two Plattsburgh Camps, was attached to Section One , Near Verdun, in France.
Gassed while driving an ambulance at the front, on October 21, 1917, he recuperated in France, and in November, 1917---when the United States came into the war---enlisted in the American Expeditionary Force Aviation Services. He was sent as a cadet to a French air school at le Crotoy, near the mouth of the Somme. 
Roger Dix was one of twenty-five who volunteered as “bombing-observers.” He wished to be trained as a pilot, but, was promised that if he took the training as an observer he would be sent to the front at once.
He made his last training flight in March. On May 5, 1918, two days after being commissioned a Second Lieutenant, the plane in which he was acting as an observer "collapsed at a height of about six-hundred feet" and Roger Sherman Dix, Jr., and his French pilot were killed.
He is buried in the commune of le Crotoy, Somme, France.

 

There is a memorial window in honor of Roger Sherman Dix, Jr. depicting "St. Martin and the Beggar," in the South Wall of the Victory Tower of The Church of the Redeemer, Chestnut Hill, MA. The window, which was donated by his family, was designed by Walter E. Tower and made by Kempe & Co., London, and installed in 1920.

Photo credits: Scituate Historical Society, Massachusetts State Library

 

 

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A Rainy Day
Josephine Miles Lewis
before 1917
36 in. x 30 in. (91.44 cm x 76.2 cm)
oil on canvas
 Mattatuck Museum

 

 

JOSEPHINE MILES LEWIS *
1865- 1959

 

Josephine Miles Lewis was born in New Haven, Connecticut on March 10, 1865, daughter of Henry G. Lewis, Mayor of New Haven in the 1860’s and Julia Coley Lewis.

She graduated from the Yale School of Fine Arts in 1887 and was the first woman to receive the Bachelor of Fine Arts degree in 1891

 

 

From 1892 to 1897, she studied in Paris at the Academy Julien and with Frederick MacMonnies, painting during the summers in Giverny and living in the same pension as did Cezanne and other French Impressionists.

Returning to New York, she had a Carnegie Hall Studio from 1897–1943, spending summers at her home and studio in Scituate, Massachusetts.

Her paintings are in the collection of the Yale University Art Gallery; New Haven Paint and Clay Club; Mattatuck Museum, Waterbury, Connecticut; the Lyman Allyn Museum, New London, Connecticut; the William A. Farnsworth Library and Museum, Rockland, Maine; St. Paul’s School, Concord, New Hampshire; Scituate Town Library, Scituate, Massachusetts, Scituate High School (now in the collection of the Scituate Historical Society;) and in many private collections.

Miss Lewis was a member of the Allied Artists of America, National Association of Women Painters and Sculptors, New Haven Paint and Clay Club, and others.

Her awards include the Julia A. Shaw Memorial Prize in 1916 for “Rainy Day,” presented by the National Academy of Design for “the most meritorious work of art in the exhibition produced by an American woman;” first prize of $125 in the annual exhibit of the New Haven Paint and Clay Club, in 1923, for “In a Garden;”

 

 

Honorable Mention for “Boy in a Bathing Suit” by the New Haven Paint and Clay Club in 1933, and again its Elizabeth Luquien’s prize of $100 for the best exhibit for “Barbara” in 1939.

In 1941, in its Fortieth Annual Exhibit, the New Haven Paint and Clay Club awarded Miss Lewis its members’ Prize for Artistic Merit for “Isabel,” which the Club purchased for $250.00 for its permanent collection. In 1954 the Boston Arts Festival Committee selected “Boy in a Bathing Suit” for exhibit in its annual show.

Miss Lewis continued painting portraits, to include the third generation of her original subjects, up until her death May 11, 1959 at the age of 94.

* Excerpt, unsigned, Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution, Ridgway Hall Research on Josephine Lewis.      

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Scenes from Vagabondia:
Thomas Buford Meteyard & Dawson Dawson-Watson
From Giverny to Scituate, 1890-1910

Pierre Menard Gallery
Cambridge, MA
2009

 

The Scituate Connection
By Nicholas Kilmer and David Noonan, Jr.

 

Daisy Thompson, at ninety, spoke of Scituate as it was when she first encountered it as a summer resident in 1901:

      …it was a quiet town, hardly awakened from its colonial sleep. Some of
      the residents had never been to Boston. The main industries of the town
      were mossing1 and lobster fishing. Front Street was tree-lined with
      frequent glimpses of the harbor…Often at high tide the water
      overflowed the causeway and inundated the blacksmith shop.
         
          There were few houses on First and Second Cliffs. On Peggoty
      Beach 2  road there were several quaint cottages, on Peggoty Beach three
      cottages for rent and some shack-like houses occupied by fishermen in the
      summer.
 
      Two or three years before we came to Scituate a group of women
      Artists became summer residents. They had been studying and painting in
      France and when they sought summer homes they decided to settle in
      Scituate. First they hired cottages, then they bought.3

It is tempting , given the context of this essay and of the exhibition it accompanies, to find, in retrospect, an “art colony” in Scituate, Massachusetts between (roughly) 1885
and 1910.  It is equally tempting to find in Scituate, after 1894, a continuation of the
spirit that has permitted art historians to speak of an art colony, principally of American
artists, that occupied Giverny, where Monet painted, beginning with the arrival of the first contingent of student painters in 1887. Having planted the temptation, we will leave it to the reader to succumb, or not, to what might equally be fairly summed up as a
coincidence growing out of companionship.

 

 

 

Scituate was a little seaside town twenty-eight miles south of Boston. It was, at the time, connected to Boston by rail. George Lunt (1803-1885), an editor of the Boston Courier, had settled in Scituate with his wife Adeline in 1860, renting Bayside, a house on the corner of Kent Street and Meeting House Lane. They were joined there by Mrs. Lunt’s brother, Dr. Thomas Parsons (1819-1892),. Parsons was a poet whose translations from Dant’s Divine Comedy were well thought of in their day. George Lunt was also the author of numerous published books, among them several volumes of verse. Mrs. Lunt herself was described as a “writer of graceful lyrics.” To this group was added, on occasion, Luigi Monti (b. 1830), a Sicilian-born teacher and man of letters, who was married to a sister of Dr. Parsons and Mrs. Lunt. All three of these related families seem to have maintained, as well, homesteads in Boston.

George Lunt’s daughter, the widowed Marion Lunt Meteyard, with her son Thomas Buford Meteyard, then aged sixteen, moved back from Chicago to Massachusetts in around 1881. Meteyard was to attend school first at Phillips Academy, Andover, MA and then Harvard University, in Cambridge, MA Following George Lunt’s death in 1885, Meteyard and his mother continued to summer in his grandfather’s Scituate house, which was occupied also by Mrs.Lunt 4 and by his uncle, Thomas Parsons.
In addition to those who were drawn to spend time with the Lunts and Parsons,5 Tom Meteyard attracted  visitors of his own generation. Among these, the poets Louise Imogen Guiney, Richard Hovey and Bliss Carman profited from the critical attentions of Dr. Parsons.6In due course Hovey, Guiney, Carman and Meteyard would appear together in the series of Songs from Vagabondia collections.

Following Parsons’ death in 1892, and on their return from France in 1893, Tom Meteyard and his mother lived in Bayside while a new house was constructed for them on the other side of Meeting House Lane. The house, and the adjacent studio Testudo,7 given Marion Meteyard’s enterprising energy as a hostess, attracted many of those among Tom’s artist friends who did not already have their own Scituate retreats; The architects Ralph Adams Cram and Bertram Goodhue; Harry Goodhue; Fred Field Bullard, the composer; the writers Carman and Hovey; the British-born painter Dawson Dawson-Watson with his wife Mary (who was always known as “Dot.”) The publishers Herbert Copeland and Fred Day also exploited Scituate connections.

The painter Alice Beckington had a family home in Scituate already, as did the painter Josephine Lewis. Lewis developed the outbuildings on her property to serve as studios for other painters, among them Mariquita Gill. Josephine’s sister Matilda, was a painter also, as were Theodora Thayer a miniature miniature painter native of Cambridge who set up a summer studio, termed “The Barn,” with her friend Mabel Stuart, a portrait painter. Frank Richardson (of Ipswich) painted in Scituate, as did Allan Talcott. A number of this generation had also spent time in Giverny including Hovey, Dawson-Watson, Josephine Lewis, Alice Beckington, Mariquita Gill, as well as Meteyard.

 

 

The sculptor Cyrus Dallin had known many in the group during their Paris days. He was in and out of Scituate, especially after he sold his sculpture Don Quixote, to “copper king” Thomas Lawson. His summer mansion in Scituate’s “Egypt” section provided work for a number of artists as it was developed.8  By 1902, Scituate was well established, and identified in print, as a place where artists were to be found, as well as writers.9

Dawson-Watson, who had taken a position teaching in Hartford, CT, in 1883, first came to Scituate as a visitor to the Meteyards. After a few years spent in England and Wales, he was again singled out as a noted resident by a columnist for the Chicago Inter-Ocean’s 1896 spread on summer resorts. “Everyone knows his posters” the columnist reports, “he made the first one for the Elite and his mezzo-tints are famous as well as his water colors.10  Dawson-Watson became a regular summer renter in Scituate, even after his winter work took him to St. Louis in 1904. In his unpublished memoir Dawson-Watson cites as regulars at the Meteyard’ home, in addition to others already mentioned, Roger Babson, Alice Brown, and the painter and curator of Eastern art, Denman Ross.11

Dawson-Watson as editor, with considerable assistance from Meteyard et al., revived the very small and informal journal they had produced sporadically in Giverny starting in 1892.12  In its new manifestation the journal, still seeking to embody a community of artistic interest, was more ambitious artistically, in that all the letters were now cut by hand from wood, as were the wood-block illustrations, some of which were executed in color. Clearly a part of the impetus for the reappearance of the Courrier Innocent was an ambition to re-establish the comradeship of the environment of Giverny. Two issues of eight pages each, one in color, were published in 1897, and sold to subscribers (there were 50 or 60 of them,) as well as being offered for sale from the Old Corner Book Shop in Boston.13

In 1905 Dawson-Watson opened a summer school in an unoccupied bard belonging to Charles H. Copeland. Here he expanded upon an idea he had developed some years previously, in the company of Herman Dudley Murphy, at “Byrdcliffe” in Woodstock, New York. He set up a shop for the production of carved frames, each designed specially for the painting that occupied it. The school was an offshoot of the Satuit Society, founded in 1905 “to promote craftsmanship in every possible way and in every sort of community.14  The roster of officers and members reads like a grand parade of all who had championed the cause in Scituate. Dawson-Watson was President; C.H. Copeland Vice-President; Josephine Lewis, Treasurer. The Advisory Board included T.B. Meteyard and R.A, Cram. “Mother Hovey”-Richard had died-was among the charter members. Among the listed craftsman members were two of St. Louis’s distinguished artists, Fran Sylvester and E. H. Wuerpel, undoubtedly brought in by Dawson Watson.15

 

 

If a grand parade, it proved also to be the rear guard of the movement in Scituate. The 1906 flyer seems to have been the last time the group was to appear together. The school was obliged to close. Students could not afford to pay the rents expected by year-round resident owners. Dawson-Watson abandoned the project16  It is not clear that he visited Scituate again. As for the Meteyards, Tom and his mother left Scituate in 1906 with the expectation of returning at some unspecified time. However, Tom’s marriage to Isabel Montague, an English woman, shifted his focus to her side of the Atlantic and, aside from a wedding trip they took in 1910, he never visited Scituate again. In 1915 the Meteyard house, with all its contents, burned.

We come upon Meteyard’s and Dawson-Watson’s Scituate , now, within these pages or within the walls of a Cambridge gallery; and we are miles and a full century away from the coincidence of place and persons that produced  the images. No wonder that we speculate, No wonder that our charmed eyes linger on the sinuous curve of receding water caught by Meteyard, shocked by light as it leaks away through marshland. Surely that happens still, outdoors, in Scituate? We can look wisely now on what would otherwise appear a curiously clumsy shallow boat, as painted by Dawson-Watson, tilted squarely, equally at either end, and know of it- do such humble craft even exist any more?-that design was brilliant for the purpose of gathering moss. It’s a Scituate picture. Has to be. We look along the line of simple cubes drawn up along the shore. They catch the light. Or block it, or seem to glow with their own light. Those mossers’ huts of Meteyard’s: can we not be excused for thinking of the haystacks Monet was painting in Giverny in 1892-as were Meteyard, and Breck, and Robinson, and Dawson-Watson at the same time and, for all we know, in the same fields, beside him?

  1. “the mossing industry was a fascinating and picturesque one. At low tide the mossers whould shove off in their big dories, empty except for a huge , long-handled  wooden rake. They rowed out to the rocks, submerged at high tide, to which the Irish moss clung. They scraped it off with strong and graceful gestures, like pitching hay, tossed it dripping into their boats. They spread it on Peggoty Beach above tide line. It was carefully teddied that the sum might bleach it. When the moss came out the water it was liver-colored when wet, but as the days passed it changed colors, from the original shade to purple, to raspberry, red, rose, and oyster white. Each day the moss was teddied and gradually took on the aspect of a huge Persian rug spread out on the sands of Peggoty.” The moss was used to create sizing, or to clarify beer.

 

  1. “Peggoty Beach” was so named by Francesca Lunt, a half-sister of Tom

             Meteyard’s, after the character in Dicken’s David Copperfield.  Although it is
             now known by this name, it was earlier known as Bassing’s Beach. Peggotty
             Beach faced the Lunt house, “Bayside, across” the marsh.

 

 

  1. “I Remember Scituate,” a reminiscience preserved in the archives of the Scituate,

             MA, Historical Society.

  1. Adeline Parsons Lunt was the third wife of George Lunt. Marion Greenwood Meteyard, Tom’s mother, was the daughter from a second marriage, to Sarah M. Greenwood.

 

  1. Parsons and Monti both appear as characters in Longfellow’s Tales of a Wayside

Inn.

  1. Hovey’s poem Seaward was an elegy for Parsons. Inn.

 

      7.   The studio was so named in honor of the tortoise, whose mark Tom Meteyard had
            adopted as his familiar chop. The house burned in 1915 but the Testudo is still
            occupied.

      8    Dallin did some painting also. Meteyard’s 1890 painting of Notre Dame in Paris
            was inscribed to “Ned”, as Dallin was known amongst his friends. Don Quixote is
            now in the collection of the Springville, UT Museum.      

      9    “Art hath its votaries in Scituate. An old barn has been fitted up for a summer
             home and studio by a couple of artists, who are never in want of fresh material
             in the ever-varying aspects of earth, sea and sky:--the whitening lines of surf
             roaring along the cliffs; a mile of in-turned stone ridge below Third Cliff, often
             half-matted over with the tide-wash of curious seaweed and Irish moss, and
             commanding the double prospect of inrolling Atlantic to the east and broad
             marshes to the west, threaded by silvery channels, dotted with gunners’ huts,
             and enlivened by the flight of sea fowl overhead: or the thick hedges, wild vines
             of  grape, bushes of elderberry, sumac, teeming orchards and stately elms of the
             inland roadways; or, seen from a cliff road, the harvest moon, emerging in
             tranquil majesty from the black watery waste and transfiguring it with a glory
             not of earth.” Hayes Robbins, “An Old Town by the Sea,” New England
             Magazine, 1902.

  1. “At the Summer Resorts,” is signed with the initials M.F.M.N.,Chicago Inter-

Ocean, Section 3, p. 16, August 2, 1896.We are grateful to William H. Gerdts for his generosity in sharing this reference with us. Gerts is presently engaged in an extended study of the art and life of Dawson-Watson. Reliable primary material for Dawson-Watson’s career is hard to come by, and Dr. Gerdts invites anyone who can add to his information to communicate with him directly, at henryinman@aol.com.

  1. Things Remembered by Dawson-Watson , Painter: 1868-1938, p. 75

 

     
      12      There were said to have been “about five issues” produced, as Dawson-Watson
                describes it, “Drawings and poems were made on smooth paper with indelible
                ink, transferred to a gelatin pad by roller pressure and prints made from it.”
                p. 64. Contributors included Louis Paul Dessar, Theodore Butler, Arthur
                Murray Cobb, Mariquits Gill, Burt Hale, Stirling Dyce, Richeard Hovey, as
                well as Dawson-Watson.

      13      As far as we can presently judge, there were five issues produced in Giverny,
                starting in 1892, and two issues, numbered vi and vii, produced in Scituate in
                the winter and spring of 1897. We note, however, that Dawson-Watson, in his
                1938 memoir, refers to “about five” issues done in Giverny, and “one monthly
                issue for three months” in Scituate.

      14      From the flyer for the second annual exhibition, 1906.

      15      Gerdts points out this intriguing St. Louis Connection in our correspondence.

      16      Dawson-Watson, p. 83

 

Disclaimer:  19thC syntax (as well as some typos) was copied verbatim by the catalog publisher.  We have followed suit.
 

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