Fitz Hugh Lane: Crippled Artist

A man who happened across no romance . . . but for his art. Cape Ann Museum
A man who happened across no romance . . . but for his art.
Cape Ann Museum

It was said of Fitz Hugh Lane that he had no romantic attachments. One might wonder when viewing  his paintings if men and women were unimportant details, little nothings compared to the sea. His neighbors spoke not of a misanthropic man but of a generous, happy soul.

As a child it is believed he’d been poisoned by an Apple-of-Peru plant and forever more suffered paralysis in his legs. He lived by the sea where legless ships glided over nearly still waters with only the slightest breezes puffing sails. At least this was how he often painted the sea. How does a boy with no sails, no useful legs find his harbor? Find his movement? Paint brushes transport and canvas carries the artist home.


Maybe his stillness led to the luminous oceans of his work. Maybe being forced to sit still brought to mind the rushed, oh-so-self-important moments of others and how easily the sea of life took them all away, daily, yearly. Maybe a boy with useless legs understood the transporting power of being still.

Or maybe he just liked boats.


Pretty pictures:

Serene Art Historians Speaking:

Money Maker:


2 responses to “Fitz Hugh Lane: Crippled Artist”

  1. What a pained expression he chose for his portrait. I imagine he put a lot of thought into the image he wished project… one of deep contemplation, looking downwards, away from the world that had cause him so much grief and pain. I imagine the life of a crippled child was very tough indeed back.
    I also think its no coincidence that he painted ships as they were able to glide over the horizon and far far away – the ultimate mobility as you point out. He looks like a deep thinker and philosopher so I doubt that very much in his life was left to chance.
    Besides all of which he seems to be a very talented painter. His subject matter couldn’t be more difficult to capture on canvas.
    An extraordinary man indeed.


    • It’s interesting to me how often children’s literature of the late 19th century is so full of invalid children. I’m going to explore that more, I think.

      Thanks for your observations about his portrait! I love them. I connected instantly with the portrait, but you brought out even more.

      All the best, Martin!



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