Paintings, Prints, & Drawings

The earliest paintings in the Museum’s collection are portraits of prominent Islanders: ships’ captains, wealthy matrons, businessmen, and their children. The artists, or limners, as they called themselves, sought to capture the character and prosperity of their sitters. They might paint a captain holding a spyglass, a lady adorned with lace and gold, or an austerely dressed minister.

Ships’ log books in the Archives combine the written history of maritime life with skilled drawing and penmanship. Dramatic artwork evokes scenes of whaling, with its hunts, accidents, and industry. These colorful drawings are found alongside written descriptions of shipboard activities and business.

By the late 1800s, Martha’s Vineyard had become a popular summer destination for artists and writers. Amelia Watson taught painting at the Martha’s Vineyard Summer Institute in Cottage City. Her watercolor landscapes are fine examples of the almost universal impulse of visiting and resident artists to record the picturesque or splendid scenes around them – an impulse that continues to this day.