Painters from Provincetown’s past
“It was a time capsule,” explains Davis, noting the cache was comprised of 15 paintings by both Lucy and William dating from 1914 “right up to 1955.” Davis believes William had hidden the paintings there in the 1950s, telling no one.
L’Engle may have enjoyed the idea of surprising future generations, because in addition to the “time capsule,” several L’Engle paintings were discovered behind other paintings, and one was unearthed behind a wall in the house after it was sold, during a renovation.
Many of the paintings Davis found in the rafters of his grandfather’s studio were restored and featured in a show Davis helped facilitate at D. Wigmore Fine Art in New York City in 2010. The catalog from that show, “Connecting Cubism to an American Narrative,” notes the L’Engles were “pioneer Modernists, part of a generation of artists working abroad in the years immediately following the public debut of Cubism in Paris in 1908.”
Having graduated from Yale in 1906 with a degree in naval architecture, William L’Engle went to Paris to study at the Académie Julian and then the École des Beaux-Arts. Lucy, who like William studied at the Art Students League in New York before going to Paris, went to study at the Académie Julian in 1913, at the age of 23. The couple met soon after Lucy’s arrival in Paris, and were married in 1914.
William and Lucy, whose paintings hang in a number of American museums, had two daughters: Madeleine, born in Marseilles, France in 1915 as the L’Engles were making ready to flee the city during the onset of World War I, and Camille, born in 1917. Madeleine, who followed her parents’ brushstrokes and became an artist, was often mistaken for the author of the same name, who was actually a cousin.
That name is getting a lot of press this year as L’Engle’s 1960 book, “A Wrinkle in Time,” has been made into a movie, released in March and starring Oprah Winfrey.
“Madeleine was a popular name in the L’Engle family,” says Davis, whose wife, Teresa Izzo, helped him create a website (lenglefinearts.com) detailing his grandparents’ lives and art. William’s sister was also named Madeleine, so researching family history “does get confusing,” Davis says.
“My mom always said that people would come and bring books for her to sign,” after seeing the name L’Engle at the end of the driveway of her home in Truro, Davis recalls. She would tell them that no, she was not that Madeleine L’Engle, “But they would say will you sign them anyway?”
Returning to New York with their infant daughter after the onset of war in Europe, the L’Engles were part of a Modernist art movement and, like fellow Modernists Charles Demuth, Marsden Hartley, Blanche Lazzell and William and Marguerite Zorach, came to Provincetown to join a growing group of artists, writers and intellectuals. Lucy was good friends with artist Marguerite Zorach, and the two of them made local headlines in 1919 when they arrived in Provincetown sporting bobbed haircuts.
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