Editor's note: The following catalogue Introduction, written in connection with the exhibition Lamar Dodd - Half a Century of Monhegan Summers, on display at the Monhegan Museum July 1 through September 30, 2015, was reprinted in Resource Library on October 10, 2015 with permission of the Monhegan Museum. If you have questions or comments regarding the text, please contact the Monhegan Museum directly through this phone number or Web address:

Lamar Dodd - Half a Century of Monhegan Summers

by Robert L. Stahl, M.D.


The 2015 Lamar Dodd exhibition at the Monhegan Museum may well be altogether attributable, if one believes in it, to serendipity. Some twenty years ago, an elderly Southern lady, the wife of a patient of mine, walked into my office at the Emory Clinic in Atlanta, GA, and exclaimed in her lovely drawl, "why, that rock must be from Monhegan Island, Maine." Indeed, the rock, a paperweight souvenir on my desk, had been rounded and smoothed by the ocean surf beneath White Head at Gull Cove, Monhegan. Incredulous, I asked how she could possibly know that, to which she replied simply, "why, my brother painted there for almost 50 summers." To my subsequent inquiry as to who her brother might be, she stated proudly "why, Lamar Dodd, of course." So here we are.

That chance exchange led to a day trip to Athens to visit the retired Chair of the Art Department of the University of Georgia. Carol and I visited his home, as well as the home of his friend and collector, C.L. Morehead, Jr. in April 1995. Dodd, who was to die the following year, was lively and enthusiastic. A natural and gifted teacher, it was obvious that he loved to share his insights. A particular memory involved viewing with him what I believed to be an abstract painting of dark geometric forms with strong lines. Dodd, who believed that all art was based on a representational concept, chuckled, and then explained, with almost child-like relish, that he had been in the medieval walled town of Cortona, Italy when a squadron from the Italian Air Force flew overhead. "I looked up and saw them, and I just wondered what they were seeing as they looked down at us."

Along with the fond memories associated with meeting Lamar Dodd are vivid recollections of the strong and varied oeuvre of a lifetime. Early New York urban realism to abstract images of lobster buoys to fine representational watercolors -- and more. The heart series done after visiting the operating room amphitheater at Emory University Hospital. The strong sketches from his first trip to Monhegan in 1947 that captured the rustic nature of a still remote fishing village. The paintings of poor Southern Blacks picking cotton, their backs bent like so many waves on the ocean. Bright sunflowers from Cortona, Italy. His NASA space program series from (then) Cape Canaveral. The recollections of that day so many years ago still remain of an artist who throughout his life explored and expanded with gusto his creative process in a multitude of subjects, mediums and styles.

We spoke that day quite a lot about Monhegan friends he had known. About Frank Pierce and Walter Davis, whom he had captured cleaning cod on Fish Beach. About Mary and Bob Burton, who had been his hosts at the Island Inn where he stayed each summer in Suite #1. {{see photo of Dodd sitting on rock with sketch of Inn}} About Earl Field who ran the ferry from Port Clyde. It was clear that Lamar had formed a bond not only with the Island, but also its people. As Dodd enthusiastically wrote to his sister Margaret: "I have always found Maine as a state rather unique, but Monhegan is even more so. They have their laws 'unto themselves,' and frankly I love it. After visiting there for 40 years I still find it has a quality that no other place has." [1]

Surprisingly, none of his work remained on Monhegan, and until now, none has been exhibited. Unlike many of the artists who come here to paint, Dodd did not hold studio hours, nor did he sell his work. At the end of every summer, he packed his canvases and returned to Athens to teach. Despite his stature as an artist of legendary reputation in his native Georgia, where the University of Georgia art department now bears his name -- a department he largely shaped and where he taught for 39 years -- the exhibition of Lamar Dodd's work in Maine has been sporadic. This is particularly puzzling considering his having created here a large body of work spanning most of the second half of the twentieth century, and even more so in view of the fact that a major work of his, Monhegan Theme (1949), was among two of his paintings acquired by the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City. Other museums having his work in their permanent collections include the Whitney Museum of American Art in N.Y., the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts in Philadelphia, and the Smithsonian American Art Museum.

Initially Monhegan represented for Dodd a place to seek challenge and inspiration, something he expressed in an interview with the Atlanta Journal-Constitution in 1949: "I went to Monhegan with certain problems to solve as a painter. . . I deliberately sought subject matter which offered these problems so that I might work them out." [2] With the passage of the years, however, Monhegan obviously became a place filled with special feelings and nostalgia: "When I went back the scenes that I had walked over so many times before, the paths over the rocks, sure enough the rocks had not changed. Some of the paint that I had used forty years ago and stuck under a rock was still there." [3]

It is therefore a special pleasure to be able to bring a large body of Lamar Dodd's work back to Monhegan where it was inspired. In this large retrospective we have chosen Monhegan paintings that reflect his favorite subjects. Drawing largely from the collection Dodd gifted to LaGrange College, in his childhood town, this exhibit spans work from his first to his last Monhegan visits.

The Monhegan Museum is particularly grateful to LaGrange College and the Lamar Dodd Art Center for enthusiastically supporting this exhibition and for the loan of the majority of the work shown. I wish to thank Professor John Lawrence, Callaway Professor of Art and Design and the Director of the Lamar Dodd Art Center of LaGrange College, for his ongoing help and encouragement. I also thank Dorothy Joiner, Lovick P. Corn Professor of Art History, LaGrange College for her collaboration and contribution of an insightful and wonderful essay, and William U. Eiland, Director, Georgia Museum of Art, for sharing an appreciation and his perspectives regarding Dodd's place in twentieth century American Art. We thank several collectors who have graciously and generously shared work: Mr. C.L. Morehead, Jr. of Athens, GA; Mr. & Mrs. B. Heyward Allen, Jr., of Athens, GA; Mr. Ray Decker, of Alexandria, VA; and an anonymous lender.

At the completion of the summer exhibition on Monhegan, the show will travel to the Palmina F. & Stephen S. Pace Galleries of Art at Fryeburg Academy where it will be on display from mid-October until the end of the year. Thanks go to John Day, Director of the Pace Gallery, for his friendship and ongoing interest in and support of Monhegan art.

1. Lamar Dodd, letter to Margaret Dodd Funderburk dated January 04, 1988.

2. Dick Bullock, "Lamar Dodd Paints a Maine Island," Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Jan. 02,1949.

3. William U. Eiland, "Documentation: A Conversation with Lamar Dodd", Southeastern College Art Conference Review II, no. 5 (1990): 393.


About the Author

Robert L. Stahl, M.D. is Associate Director at the Monhegan Museum.



To view the checklist for the exhibition please click here.


Resource Library editor's note

The above Introduction to the exhibition catalog Lamar Dodd - Half a Century of Monhegan Summers was reprinted in Resource Library on October 10, 2015, with the permission of the Monhegan Museum, Monhegan Island, Maine, which was granted to TFAO on October 7, 2015. The catalogue is available through the Monhegan Museum.

Resource Library wishes to extend appreciation to Jennifer Pye, Curator of Collections, Monhegan Museum for her help concerning permissions for reprinting the above text.

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