William Ferdinand Macy (1852 - 1901)
The Cliffs at Gay Head, Martha’s Vineyard, 1895
Oil on canvas
9 x 22 inches
Signed and dated at lower left: W. Ferdinand Macy / 95
William Ferdinand Macy was a New Bedford, Massachusetts, born artist who, like fellow artist Wendell Macy, was a descendant of early Nantucket settler and original proprietor Thomas Macy. He studied in New York City at the Cooper Union Art School under the tutelage of New Bedford artist R. Swain Gifford. Macy exhibited some early luminous New England scenes at the National Academy of Design in 1872 and 1873, just prior to his marriage to fellow artist Jane Francis (“Fannie”) Swift in 1875. The couple visited the island in 1877 and Macy opened up shop the next summer, advertising rooms open to the public on Pleasant Street where he displayed his paintings. He received notice in the local papers as an artist of rare skill who was able to study nature with earnestness and enthusiasm and to draw things as they look to the observer. Macy enjoyed continuing success on Nantucket with his marine scenes and flower paintings, eventually establishing his studio in the North Shore area where Eastman Johnson, John Alexander MacDougall Jr. and other artists lived and worked.
Macy led a peripatetic lifestyle, relocating according to season or personal necessity. He worked mostly in and around New Bedford, Nantucket, Wellfleet, Boston and Pembroke, Massachusetts; with short periods of residence also in Foxboro, Westborough, and Revere, Massachusetts; Hartford, Connecticut; North Conway, New Hampshire; and coastal areas of Maine. His recorded legacy comprises no less than two hundred and twelve paintings, of which one hundred and seventeen are marines or marsh scenes. A preponderance of his surviving works are in private hands.
By 1890 Macy was back in New Bedford and exhibited locally at Lawton's Book Store and Art Gallery and the New Bedford Art Club. He also exhibited his work at the Boston Art Club and the National Academy of Design among other venues.