Sudduth Goff (1887-1965), American
“Gray Day in Rockport Harbor”, 1927
oil on canvas, 12 in. x 15 in.
(framed dimensions: 14 ¾ in. x 18 in.)
signed lower left: “S Goff ‘27”
Known primarily as an accomplished portrait painter, Sudduth Goff also painted and exhibited a number of fine marine views such as the painting being offered here. Painted when the artist was 40 years old, this view of Rockport Harbor in Massachusetts is executed with consummate skill. The subject is the famous rust-red fishing shack on Bradley Wharf known as “Motif Number 1”, painted by so many artists over the years. Interestingly, this fishing shack was lost during the Blizzard of 1978 but was completely rebuilt afterwards to exacting specifications. Here, in 1927, It is high tide and two or three sailing vessels are moored alongside the wharf with a half dozen or so smaller dories. The title on the plaque of “Gray Day..” seems a bit of a misnomer as the scene is warmed by sunlight, even if just through breaking clouds. The water reflects the blue sky above and the greens, siennas, creams and oranges are brought out by the sun. The painting displays elements of Impressionism in its tilted down vantage point, cropped masts and buildings, and its asymmetrical composition – the heavy cluster of boats at center are balanced by the elongated dory to the left. The paint itself is deftly applied and shows the sure hand of a painter who has complete mastery of his craft. The artist paints a number of horizontal elements with his brush laden with just enough paint to leave a thin ridge of paint, such as along the prows of the green vessels, which add a pop of dimension to this painting. The view has changed very little in the past 92 years, including the houses on the opposite shore.
It is apparent that Goff got away in summers to paint in Cape Ann, Massachusetts, being a member of the Rockport Art Association. We may surmise that the portrait painter Goff must have enjoyed the respite from that line of work when painting marine landscapes such as this Rockport scene.
Born in Eminence, Kentucky, Sudduth Goff attended Kentucky University (now Transylvania University – from which he received an honorary doctorate in 1948), followed by study at the Cincinnati Art Academy (Duveneck School) with Vincent Nowottny, Lewis Henry Meakin and Herman Wessel. Goff also studied 7 years at the School of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, under noted American Impressionists Frank Weston Benson, Frederick Bosley and Philip Leslie Hale.
Goff was already painting portraits of prominent citizens before World War I. During that conflict, he served in the U.S. Navy and afterward resumed his career as an artist, painting portraits out of Louisville, Kentucky from 1918. He helped start the Louisville School of Art after which he founded the Louisville School of Painting and Drawing, with Eugene Field and Gladys Wyatt as instructors. In 1927, Goff sold the school to the Louisville Conservatory of Music, moving to Chicago to become a teacher at the American Academy of Art and continued his portrait painting. In 1940 the artist moved to Manhattan, opening a studio off Fifth Avenue.
Sudduth Goff was a nationally known portrait painter, leading a half century career as a painter of society and celebrity portraits. He had success selling and exhibiting in Louisville, Chicago, Cincinnati, New York and Boston. Goff showed his works at many galleries and institutions including The Louisville Art Association, the Art Institute of Chicago, the Southern States Art League, Arthur Newton Galleries, the Salmagundi Club, the National Arts Club and the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston. He had a one man show at the Speed Art Museum in Louisville in 1937. Most of Goff’s work was in oils but he also executed fine likenesses in charcoal and pastel. Goff adhered to traditional methods and to a conservative style, openly scorning the emergence of abstraction and modernism.
Goff retired to Lexington, Kentucky in 1963 which is where he passed away two years later. Goff never married and had no children.
Goff received a Scholarship award at the Cincinnati Art Academy and was awarded a Scholarship from the School of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston for each of the six years after his first year there. He won two fifty-dollar Prizes at the SMFA – one for drawing, one for painting. He also won a Gold Medal at the Louisville Art Colony, 1923, and Prizes at the Chicago Galleries Association in 1930 and 1931.
He was a member of the Alumni of the School of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, the Arts Club, Louisville, Louisville Art Association, Association of Chicago Painters and Sculptors, Chicago Galleries Association, National Arts Club, New York, Rockport Art Association, Salmagundi Club, New York and the Southern States Art League.
As a portraitist, Goff’s work is housed mainly in private collections, but some works can be found in public and corporate collections including the Salmagundi Club, New York, Christ Church Cathedral, Lexington, the University of Tennessee, Memphis and Transylvania University, Lexington.
The painting is in very good original condition. There is no craquelure and no inpainting. The painting is clean under blacklight. There are subtle stretcher bar marks present, the most visible being along the right stretcher bar. Also, there is one very small spot of paint loss at lower right center in the water – appears to be caused by being touched by some object in its past (very slightly indented examined under magnification). The paint surrounding it is very stable and there is no risk of further loss. When the painting is properly lit, these are not distracting. The simple cove frame is in very good condition and bears a title plaque with the artist’s name and year the painting was done, 1927.
Sudduth Goff, fine marine oil painting, "Gray Day In Rockport Harbor", 1927