Sky-Horizon-Light: Perspectives on Crane Beach

Nov. 24, 2018 — March 13, 2019

A special exhibition of paintings by Dorothy “Doffie” Arnold (1924–2018)
Opening Reception Saturday, November 24, 3:00 to 5:00 p.m.

The works on view offer an ever changing vista of Crane Beach as observed across Ipswich Bay from Arnold’s studio in Bay View (Gloucester). Painted in the 1980s, these acrylics on paper are part of larger series of works by Arnold that take as their subject the intersection of water, land and light viewed from a single vantage point over a period of years. With a low horizon line, a sky that is often turbulent and waters that range from placid to racing, the paintings reflect the strong influence of nature on the artist and her work.

A 1980 graduate of the School of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, Dorothy Arnold maintained studios in Cambridge and Gloucester. While much of her work is large scale, the Crane Beach paintings measure just 11x15 inches. Her work, which includes landscapes, still lives, figure studies and abstractions, was the subject of an international retrospective in 2001–2003. It was Arnold’s wish to exhibit her art locally in an effort to strengthen the community’s appreciation of the culture and traditions of the area.


Related Programming

Crane Beach
Saturday, January 19 at 3:00 p.m.

Join The Trustees’ coastal ecologist Jeff Denoncour for an overview of their work at Crane Beach. Free for Museum members and Cape Ann residents; $10 nonmembers / nonresidents.  Reservations required. Sign up online at Eventbrite or call (978) 283-0455 x10.


Like an incoming tide, Dorothy “Doffie” Arnold and David, her husband of 71 years, would arrive at Bayview almost every Friday night with the usual carload of sundries: the food not to be left spoiling in their Boston condo (food that eventually would be returned to Boston to spoil), the dog, and myriad unfinished canvases destined for weekend attention ranging from touchups to total makeovers.

The canvases were labors of love but they often kept her asking: “Are you done? Are you good?”

Perhaps because the canvases demanded so much of Doffie – or she demanded so much of them – she might take a few moments in a day to paint in acrylic on paper. These forays were liberating escapes into the freedom of quick draw - sketches of motion and energy that mesmerized her in the world beyond the windows of her octagonal Gloucester studio. Cranky trees, swirling clouds, a moody ocean.

Each of the 16 Crane Beach variations in this exhibit probably took Doffie 15 minutes to paint. They were discovered in an unmarked envelope a few weeks after her death last May. The beach scenes are playful sweeps delivered with a brush or palette knife. They exploit complex combinations of color that the untrained eye might have missed.

By the late 1980s such paintings came so easily to her that she would admit with a pang of guilt: “Art should not be so easy, so much fun.”

This is an exhibit of Dorothy Arnold’s spontaneity. The paintings capture the heart and passion of an artistic legacy and a love of place. Between the sky, horizon and ocean in each piece is confidence. She would have been too modest to even whisper: “And they’re good.”

—David Arnold, son of the artist



(top) Dorothy Arnold (1924–2018). Landscape 3, 1987, acrylic on paper.

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