The paintings are of picturesque New England beaches, calm blue oceans largely devoid of waves beneath blue and indigo skies, and small boats at rest that one can almost imagine bobbing up and down gently on a summer breeze.
“It’s peacefulness,” says the painter who created them—Anne Packard of Provincetown—before chuckling and adding, “I paint what I’m not.”
Packard—whose latest exhibition, “Seascapes,” runs at Arden Gallery (refer to listing) through May 30—may claim not to know the tranquility that her acclaimed oil paintings evoke, but she’s made a name for herself in the art world over the last four decades and is regarded as one of the most respected artists working in her field today. Amazingly, the owner of Provincetown’s Packard Gallery got her start at a time when many artists are contemplating their second or third radical reinvention.
Anne Packard was 30 years old and had five children to support in the early 1960s when her marriage abruptly ended. (Her husband “left and went to Europe,” Packard says, almost nonchalantly.) The single mother partially supported her family by taking in boarders and working in catering, but mostly she did so by returning to a path she’d abandoned years before.
“I hung my paintings on a fence and sold them for $15, $20,” she recalls. Eventually, the pieces sold well enough that the prices went up, and soon renowned Provincetown artist Robert Motherwell began buying Packard’s work—eventually offering her his home to live in when she was in Provincetown.
“He helped me along and gave me some credibility,” says Packard, “even though he was an abstract expressionist and I wasn’t.”
Packard had shown an aptitude for art from childhood, hardly surprising given her lineage. Packard’s grandfather was Max Bohm, an early 20th-century romantic impressionist painter of some note. However, Bohm died before his granddaughter was born, and wasn’t there to champion her when she wanted to pursue art professionally.
“My parents didn’t encourage me,” says Packard. “They wouldn’t send me to art school—thought I’d be better off without it.”
So Packard put painting aside and raised a family, only to return to it years later, creating paintings in which she sees much of her famous forebear. “[Bohm’s] paintings have been a tremendous influence,” says Packard, “and I think that comes through in the subject matter and mood of my works.”
Despite the years of creating art that were “lost” to her, Packard, upon reflection, concedes that her late entry into art may have had its advantages. “My father always said I would’ve been ruined if I’d gone to art school, and I suppose if I had I might have gotten hung up in being ‘innovative’ and ‘artsy-fartsy,’” she chuckles.
Packard has said that she looks to capture a sense of solitude in her works, and that thematic objective jells with the artist’s own personality. “I am sort of antisocial by nature,” she says, adding that she doesn’t expect to attend the opening of her gallery show at Arden. “Years ago, I used to have to sell myself to sell my art, but these days I just don’t think it’s necessary to be around all the time. Less is more.”
Besides, Packard says, time away from her studio and her gallery is time away from what really matters: the work itself. “I just really love to paint,” she says. “I don’t get up in the morning to have coffee or read the paper. The painting itself is my oldest friend—that’s what I get up each day to do.”
Packard’s daughter, Cynthia, is also a painter, and Packard says that the two of them critique each other’s work. “Cynthia wants me to be on the cutting edge,” Packard laughs. “And I do play and experiment. But I’m in a beautiful time right now and very content with my career. I worked very hard to get here.”
And so, painting boats in her remote
coastal home, it sounds quite like Anne
Packard has found some measure of
peacefulness after all.
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