The Artistic Journey Of Marguerite Falconer

By: Tim Wood

Topics: local artist

Beacon at Nauset, oil, circa 1984.

Atwood House And Museum Exhibit Looks Back At Iconic Chatham Artist

One of the first sights that greets visitors to the Chatham Historical Society's Atwood House and Museum is a large oil painting of the Chatham Fish Pier. It's one of the town's most iconic scenes, and the painting was created by one of the community's most treasured artists, the late Marguerite “Peg” Falconer.

Martuerite "Peg" Falconer.

Martuerite "Peg" Falconer.

Beginning this week, the gallery beyond the museum's entryway will be filled with Falconer paintings. “Marguerite E. Falconer: An Artist's Journey” includes 16 paintings spanning nearly 50 years and including the beach scenes and landscapes the Chatham artist was best known for, as well as other less common subjects, such as the Boston Commons and New Harbor, Maine.

“Peg Falconer contributed so much to our community,” said Atwood House and Museum Director Danielle Jeanloz. The fish pier painting, donated by Falconer's daughter Susan Falconer Eldredge and her husband Kevin in 2015, a year before the artist passed away, is one of the museum's most popular paintings.

“We get a lot of comments on it,” Jeanloz said.

Domonic Boreffi, whose Chatham gallery, Gallery Antonia, represents Falconer's estate, approached the museum about an exhibit of Falconer's paintings. It took a while to find a spot on the museum's schedule, but Boreffi said that two years after her death, it's a good time to look back at the artist's career. Holding the exhibit in an institution so identified with Chatham is appropriate, he added.

“I think it's important for her place in Chatham,” said Boreffi, who curated the exhibit.

Works in the show date from 1962 to 2009 and showcase Falconer's style, which emphasizes light and mood without sacrificing detail. The oldest painting, a water scene in New Harbor, Maine, shows subtle differences in style – primarily in use of color – from a scene of the Oyster River in Chatham from 2002. There are two more unusual urban-type scenes, a Provincetown street scene circa 1970, on loan for the show, and a painting of the swan boats in the Boston Common from 1967, which shows the old Hancock building in the background. That painting was included in Falconer's 2011 solo show at the Cape Cod Museum of Art.

A self-described American Impressionist, Falconer began drawing at an early age. A Quincy native, she attended the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston and the DeCordova Museum in Lincoln as well as studying with a number of New England artists and teaching painting for many years. Fifty years ago, in 1968, she opened a gallery on Main Street in Chatham with painter Dan McElwain, across the street from another new business, the Chatham Squire. She often worked during business hours, painting in the front windows, much to the delight of patrons. She was instrumental in founding the Creative Arts Center in 1969. Helping other artists and being part of the community were important to her, said Boreffi.

“She had a special place for Chatham,” he said. “She loved it.”

Falconer's sensitivity to light and water are what appeal to Jeanloz.

“Chatham is all about water; that's what draws a lot of people here,” she said. “Her ability to convey that special feeling about our community through water and light I find very appealing.”

Her work is in many collections locally and around the country, including the National Museum of Women in the Arts, the American Museum of Art at the Smithsonian Institute in Washington, D.C., and the Cape Museum of Fine Arts. In 2007 she was featured in a documentary “Wisdom of the 80s” which was shown at the Woods Hole Film Festival. The Eldredge Public Library displays a Falconer painting in a prominent spot over the antique oak mantle in the reference room.

Falconer continued to work into her 90s, even as macular degeneration robbed her of the ability to see detail, Boreffi said. “In her 90s she was trying to do a loose, more abstract style,” he said. “She kept working at it.”

The exhibit will have a “soft” opening this week and will officially open following a private reception Saturday. The museum will be open Fridays and Saturdays 1 to 4 p.m. through the end of October; it will be closed in November while the annual holiday exhibit is set up, and will then be open for Fridays and Saturdays during December, with Falconer's exhibit continuing through the end of the year.

“We wanted to keep them up as long as we could,” said Jeanloz. “We're very excited about this.”

On Oct. 21, Boreffi will give a talk about Falconer and her art at the museum. Admission to the 2 p.m. lecture is free for museum members and $10 for nonmembers.