On Friday, May 24, from 5 to 7 pm, the Artists Association of Nantucket and the Nantucket Historical Association will celebrate the opening of John Austin: One Artist’s Nantucket. This collaborative exhibition will be held in the Whitney Gallery at the NHA Research Library, 7 Fair Street, and features works from the NHA collections and the AAN’s permanent collection, including several examples of Austin’s works received by both organizations as bequests from the Andy Oates estate.
As a premier island artist, Austin’s remarkable body of work in tempera and other media includes classic views of quintessential Nantucket locations, such as Steamboat Wharf; the lighthouses, beaches, and shorelines. Exhibited for over thirty years at Reggie Levine’s Main Street Gallery, Austin’s work was collected by locals, summer visitors, and such influential figures as Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis and Mrs. Paul Mellon.
“John Austin captured the spirit of an older, sleepier Nantucket that still lingered in the ‘70s, ‘80s and even into the ‘90s,” says Ben Simons, NHA Robyn & John Davis Chief Curator. “His paintings had an almost universal appeal, and were collected by a broad range of Nantucket natives, locals, and summer residents alike.”
Austin’s various experiences, from studying at The Art Students League of New York to designing floats for the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, led to him becoming a full-time painter in the 1960’s. He first brought his family to Nantucket in the 1970s, after painting New England barns and byways on the mainland.
Known for being a keen draftsman, house portraits and commissioned works were Austin’s specialty, and he relished in the social exchange with his clients and collectors. His commemorative ship portraits, presented by the U.S. Nantucket Coast Guard to retiring officers, earned him an honorary post in the Guard.
John Austin’s work will be on view at the NHA’s Whitney Gallery at 7 Fair Street, during library hours, Monday, Thursday, and Friday, 10 am to 4 pm and Tuesday, 11 am to 4 pm.