Today we share a recent acquisition: Elizabeth Rebecca Coffin’s “The Arab Boy,” created during the artist’s 1905-06 trip to Algeria. This painting, an oil on board, shows a young man in flowing garments looking to the horizon. On the reverse there’s a second painting, an incomplete view of a hay wagon in a landscape.
This painting is the fourth work the NHA has acquired this year by Coffin, the most important female artist associated with Nantucket from the turn of the twentieth century. The museum has also acquired “The Old Falconer of Ben Gana, Sheik of the Ziban” (also from Coffin’s trip to Algeria), a pastel portrait of a woman, and a still life of chrysanthemums.
Elizabeth Rebecca Coffin (1850–1930) was a painter, educator, and philanthropist. Born in Brooklyn, where she lived most of her life, she studied at Vassar College, the Academy of Fine Arts in the Hague, the Art Students League in New York, and the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts. Among her instructors were Johan Philip Koelman, William Merritt Chase, and Thomas Eakins, whose realist approach is evident in Coffin’s surviving works. Her father was from Nantucket and a descendant of the early English settlers; in the early 1880s, she began summering on island, eventually buying a house in which she later retired. Her signal achievement for Nantucket was the revival and transformation of the Coffin School, which she helped guide for more than two decades.
Both “The Arab Boy” and “The Old Falconer” are gifts of the Friends of the NHA. The still life is an NHA purchase; the pastel portrait is an NHA purchase underwritten by Thomas & Connie Cigarran, Anne & Todd Knutson, and Margaret Hallowell & Stephen Langer. ...