On Tuesday, at the family plot in Marblehead, we buried the ashes of my uncle Peter Vincent. It seemed fitting that it started down pouring rain before the small ceremony of family members. All we needed was some wind to recreate some of the raw feeling of the fisherman on the decks of many of Peters etchings and paintings.
As I try to clear my mind to reflect on the passing of my uncle, artist, teacher and friend, I think of the complexities that made this man a man that strived to be simple. He was an artist that changed the concept of what marine painting could and should be. He studied everything around him and brought the emotion and strength of the Gloucester and Nova Scotia fishermen in their sloops to life. With the creation of the face of the strong men of the sea and the pain and trials that came with the work.
Peter’s paintings are in many private and museum collections, and over the years he has received many awards recognizing his outstanding work. The Rockport Art Association, Mystic Seaport, Copley Society and the Cape Ann Historical Association are a few of the arts organizations that have honored him and his work.
I was very lucky to be one of his models growing up, he created iconic photos of me and my family in stills and motion. This was during his time as a student at the School of the Museum of Fine Arts, as a camera and dark room was as much of his life as his paints. Bolex and Nikon in his bag, we set out into the yard of the family home on Haven Ave, or Sandy Bay Yacht Club to chase the wind and manage light. He often spoke to me about how he setup a portrait of me by strapping heat lamps to a tree and having me, age 4 or 5, standing fearfully below them. One of my favorite photos during this time is of me, popping my head out of the hatch of the family boat MADELINE, mimicking Peter using his Bolex camera, using my hands as the crank and camera body.
In college he enjoyed watching the works of Sergio Leone and he was impressed with the intensity that he brought to a film frame, the story, timing and how it could impact a plot. Peter got wind that I was taking a class on film making and he dropped by a story board that he had done to study Sergio Leone’s, The Good, The Bad and The Ugly. It was a master work of sketches, a frame work of what he had seen and liked in each section of the movie and the emotion and symbology that went with it.
For many years after that time, he disappeared upstairs working on his etchings and I would only see him briefly on holidays at the dinner table on family events. Though I do remember the Labor Day weekends that he would come home with his trophies from a years sailing at the SBYC with Emily Wick and others. We talked often about racing, sailing Star boats, and the boat DECISIONS that he and my father once owned.
Peter taught me how to see, teaching that visually a ocean wave is not just a wave but a series of shapes, colors and shadows that communicated an environmental and emotional outcome. He was telling stories but all parts of the composition had a beginning, middle and an end. He had one painting that I have always struggled with, to me the ocean never looked correct, until a few days before he passed, I was down at the ocean shooting a photo and saying to myself, “The ocean, it is just like what I had seen in Peter’s painting years ago.”
In recent years Peter started to get interested in computers and digital cameras. He never owned either, but he wanted to understand their impact on art. He often asked me on how the modern photo studios had changed and we would talk about the similarities and difference with their possible benefits. We spent hours using Photoshop together, playing with snap shots that we would take and doing things like adding my daughters hair to a photo of Peter, taking one of Peter’s paintings and adding my kids heads to the fishermen or goofing around with different photos we could find.
He was one of a kind and the way that he saw the world was often beyond what others could see. I can hear his voice in the hallways of the many dinners that we had together laughing, talking about life, politics, art and sports especially the New England Patriots.
Thank you Peter for all and everything.