seacoast lane

Casper Hjalmar Amundsen (F.H. McKay) 1911-2001, "Seacoast Lane" (oil painting) 47 x 37 cm Impressionist style of painting reproduced on Duco jigsaw puzzles in the 40s & 50s.. He painted primarily sailboats, ocean and coastal scenes, likely inspired from areas around Rockport, MA; Gloucester; Provincetown; and Sagg Harbor.

 

 

Casper Hjalmar Amundsen (F.H. McKay) 1911-2001

by Ralph Slatton, updated 7/4/2017


Each of us holds a special memory from childhood. Sometimes it's an image from a movie, or perhaps a special children's book; for me, it is a picture on a zigsaw puzzle. I speak of an image of a painting on a popular puzze from the early 50's. I believe the puzzle company was called Tuco. My Mom, sister, and I spent many hours piecing that puzzle. I was also intrigued by the peaceful coastal scene, painted in the impressionist style. It was a mysterious peek into a bygone era, taking us down a shaded street which led to a misty seacoast. Many years later, I became an artist and I had to revisit this scene of my childhood. I soon discovered that there was very little written about the artist, F. H. Mckay and for good reason. I was chasing an alias.

 

At the time of this article, I was not able to find much about F. H. McKay. I was only able to accumulate a few descriptive lines regarding this painter from several online auction sites, art and genealogy forums. Luckily, this mystery has since been lifted in the book, Cappy: The Life and Art of C. Hjalmar Amundsen, published in 2011 by Terry Wallace. I would like to officially credit this author for all the information posted here. The mysterious painter was identified as Casper Hjalmar Amundsen III, who was also known as "Cappy." Cappy used several aliases, one of which was F.H. McKay. His other pseudonyms included, J. J. Enwright, W. Hughes, Wm Ward, Jr., Sven Sagg, J.C. Bennett, J. C Bonac, John Dune, and others. The reason cited for creating these aliases is that Cappy didn't want to flood the market with too many paintings from one artist, thinking this would be a good marketing strategy. Cappy would go to lengths creating fictitious biographies for each of his identities, always inspired by actual people he admired.

 

Cappy's father, Casper Emerson, Jr. (1878-1948) was a renown artist, famously known for creating "The Emerson Girl" for the Broadway Magazine in the New York Herald-Tribune. Born in 1911, Cappy learned much of his basic drawing and painting skills in his father's studio. After graduating from Blair Academy, Cappy attended the Grand Central School of Art studying illustration and painting. In 1932, he founded the Washington Square Outdoor Art Show, along with Jackson Pollock, William de Kooning, Beaufort & Joseph Delaney and others.

 

Impressionism Claude Monet Impression Sunrise

To provide a little background, Cappy's style was called impressionism, a movement which began in the 19th century with a group painters based in Paris. One of the more prominent figures was Claude Monet who painted, soleil levant or "Impression, Sunrise." (shown on the left) as the painting that helped to coin the saterical title, "impressionism" in a review published in the Parisian newspaper, Le Charivari, in 1874. Impressionist style was typically characterized by its use of small brushstrokes and rich colors, applied in close proximity to each other, often referred to as broken color. The painter avoided the carefully blended layers and over-glazes used by the academic painters. By keeping the colors vibrant and raw, the viewer would be forced to mix the hues visually. Some common colors of impressionists were cobalt blue, cerulean blue, synthetic ultramarine, emerald green, viridian, chrome yellow, vermilion, and crimson lake. They worked from the theory of complementary colors, in which colors were opposite each other on the color wheel. Monet said: “Color owes its brightness to force of contrast rather than to its inherent qualities (primary colors) look brightest when they are brought into contrast with their complementaries.”


The House On Seacoast Lane

During the depression, Cappy could not make a living as an artist. For seven or eight years he traveled along the eastern seaboard working as a commercial fisherman. During this time, he lived in Gloucester and Provincetown where he became an active member of the famous Beachcombers Club and continued to paint local scenes. Later in life, Cappy moved to Sagg Harbor and painted subjects of sail boats, quaint houses, farms, and towns typical of that area. His paintings can be found ranging in size from a small 8x10 on board to larger canvas pieces. Also, prints of his oil paintings were sometimes made. He sold quite frequently to tourists visiting the area who wanted to take home a reminder of their vacation. Current prices for his paintings range from the low hundreds up to 2 or 3 thousand for a large oil on canvas in an original frame. His pieces turn up now and again at some of the established east coast auction houses and a good deal can be found on eBay from time to time.

 

In regards to the featured McKay painting at the top of this page,"Seacoast Lane," Typifies the type of subject matter that Cappy enjoyed. Cute little framed print of an idyllic tree lined street with charming cottage style homes, one with a white picket fence. There is an older person strolling along with a walking stick and in the near distance is the sea. Pretty colors and sweet old fashioned charm! Signed F. H. McKay. He generally used a stretcher and canvas made by ANCO Company of Glendale and on smaller works he would use canvas borad. He often used a copyright stamp on the back of most canvases, and would sign the back upper left hand corner of the stretcher. He would often attach labels containing false biographies of each of his aliases.


Puzzled Beginnings tuco puzzle

As mentioned earlier, my first encounter with F. H. McKay was through one of my childhood possessions, a jigsaw puzzle manufactured by Tuco in the early 50s. This raises some interesting questions, as to how this painting became an important part of our popular culture through the Tuco company. I am very curious as to what possible connections this company may have with the artist or the artist's family. Perhaps it was chosen only because of its subject matter. Afterall, impressionist paintings were popular as reproduction or assembly-line paintings, probably due to their pleasant imagery and soothing color schemes. They make excellent color accessories for interiors of homes and seldom distract from color schemes or interior themes.


Undoubtedly, F.H. McKay "Cappy" will continue to fulfill my nostagia of those idealized villages, with their picket fences, seacoast cottages, shady streets that end near the sea, and strolling couples forever frozen in the pieces of a jigsaw puzzle.

 

References:

Terry Wallace, Cappy: The Life and Art of C. Hjalmar Amundsen (M.T. Fine Arts, Inc., 2011).

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=J9BR7HZGPgw

https://paintingthehamptons.blogspot.com/2013/02/the-curious-lives-of-cappy-amundsen.html