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Painters from Provincetown’s past

Painters from Provincetown’s past, April 2018 Cape Cod LIFE |

Lucy L’Engle painted the oil on board “Electrifying Truro” in 1949. Photo courtesy of Daniel L’Engle Davis

Both L’Engles exhibited at the Provincetown Art Association and Museum, established in 1914, and maintained a lifelong affiliation with PAAM. Both served on the jury for and exhibited in the organization’s first Modernist exhibition in 1927, and William, known to friends and family as Bill, was a trustee.

While many of the artists’ paintings were in the angular Cubist style, they both exhibited great range over the course of their respective careers. Much of their work is considered a blend of Cubism and Realism, and William gravitated toward Social Realism. In the 1920s, the couple’s work captured local flavor in the Provincetown-Truro area, but in the 1930s William painted scenes that ranged from industrial, as in “Stonington Mill” (1934), to community, as in “Local Traffic” (1938). Lucy’s work was included in a show with Pablo Picasso in Paris in 1925, Davis notes. Both were enthralled with the Martha Graham dance troupe 1930s jazz dancers, depicting the dancers in sketches and paintings.

William did a number of portraits and sometimes worked in watercolor as well as oil, and Lucy became more abstract in her later paintings. William’s work could be playful, as in his 1924 “Family Map” painting, which depicts all of Cape Cod as Truro and Provincetown, picturing the couple’s studio, Highland Light, Provincetown Monument and, where the mainland would begin, William’s ancestral home in St. Augustine, Florida. Also included in that painting is Lucy’s nickname, “Brownie,” for her maiden name of Brown.

William L’Engle died in 1957, and Lucy kept the Truro house and continued to paint for the rest of her life. She wintered in New York until coming to live full time in Truro in her 80s, at which point her daughter Madeleine moved back to the family home to care for her. Lucy died in 1978 at the age of 89.

Although Davis is happy to have a number of L’Engle paintings, many others went to his cousins, the children of his Aunt Camille, who spent most of her life in California. “So most of the Truro paintings went to California,” Davis says. “They painted all over the world, but the Truro paintings are really great.”

Both William and Lucy were passionate about their work. “They were very dedicated and painted non-stop their entire lives,” says Davis, who remembers his grandmother as very supportive, opinionated and assertive, with a commanding presence. Within the family, “She was a ‘grande dame,’ kind of like Peggy Guggenheim, the famous New York City collector and gallery owner,” he says. Her passing, he reflects, was “the end of an era.”

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