STEPHEN MORGAN ETNIER (1903-1984), was one of America’s most extensively traveled and highly individualistic artists of the twentieth century. His work, primarily landscape and marine-based paintings, was broadly considered to fall into the category of realism, though the depiction of the nature and vitality of sunlight, particularly its effect on the surface of water, played a crucial role in his artistic endeavors. In this regard he is considered by many to be a twentieth-century descendent of the American Luminists, especially the nineteenth-century Boston painter Fitz Hugh Lane, whom he greatly admired. Fusing his vocation as a painter with his restless disposition, Etnier pursued a lifelong affair with sailboats and yachts, classic automobiles, and private airplanes. In the course of a prolific career which spanned six decades and is known to have produced over five hundred works of art, he explored both the Atlantic and Pacific coasts, and dropped anchor off many islands in the Caribbean, as well as Bermuda.
Born into a family of privilege in York, Pennsylvania on September 11, 1903, Etnier was the first and only son of Carey and Susan Etnier, and the grandson of famed inventor and industrialist S. Morgan Smith. His parents purchased a mansion south of York when Etnier was around 11, renaming the house Wyndham. Etnier’s interest in art (and in a particular kind of art) may have been catalyzed by a Frederick Church painting of a sunset that was hanging on a wall in the house when the Etniers moved in. Later in life, he revealed that he always remembered that painting. Etnier’s father, though, had other plans for his only son: his expectation was that Stephen would become an engineer and enter the family business, something Etnier wholeheartedly rejected as his predetermined fate. As a child, he recognized that working in an office did not suit him; In an oral interview conducted on February 22nd, 1973, (at the age of sixty-nine) with Robert Brown for the Archives in American Art in the Smithsonian Institution (hereafter referred to as Archives Interview), he recalls feeling “very shocked by my father’s office, and I regarded going to an office somewhat the way you would going to school. I figured if I wasn’t careful I’d be trapped in that kind of life.” Being confined in this manner was repellent to Etnier, who rebelled against authority and authority figures as a student at several prep schools, including the Haverford and Hill Schools in Pennsylvania, and the Roxbury Tutoring School in Connecticut. He found school officials to be “dusty grey little people who never had their suits pressed. They were all covered with chalk and I didn’t care for the classrooms or for the people who inhabited them.” (Archives Interview) Also early on he came to see that he was sensitive to everything going on around him, particularly in the world of nature, with an accompanying urge to tell other people about it. In 1919, while a student at the Hill School, he noticed some Western paintings in the library and, according to his recollection, “started copying some of these paintings in pen and ink... I started doing Western pen and inks of sunsets and horses crossing the horizon at sunset. I think that’s probably the very beginning of the urge, the first time I could get over what I felt.” (Archives Interview) Etnier’s familiarity with the West stemmed from several trips he had taken with his mother, to the Grand Canyon, Yosemite, Banff, and Lake Louise, as well as the 1915 Exposition in San Francisco. HIs mother, a graduate of Vassar College, attempted to stress the cultural values of these trips, taking the teenage Etnier to many old missions and art museums, which left him “pretty cold at the time. As far as painting was concerned, when looking at them I just thought they were a lot of brown boring pictures.” (Archives Interview) He felt much the same way about a visit taken to the Louvre in Paris after the First World War: “I was sent to the Louvre (by his mother) and when I came back and reported I’d missed the Mona Lisa, I had to go back and see it. Tell, the Louvre bored me itself. Just the long corridors with a lot of brown pictures in them.” (Archives Interview) After being told by the authorities at Yale University that he wasn’t ready for matriculation, he left the Roxbury School and boarded a ship for South America with his mother and sister, spending time in both Rio and Buenos Aires. It was during this period that Etnier discovered the novelist Somerset Maugham’s book, Moon and Sixpence (ostensibly based upon the life of the painter Paul Gauguin), which influenced him profoundly. Following this trip Etnier entered Yale, transferring to the Art School soon thereafter, but finding it as confining as any of the other educational institutions that he had found so difficult to endure in the past. In his opinion “the art school... was very stuffy, with a lot of those plaster casts that we were supposed to draw from, and old gin bottles. This bored the hell out of me. I wanted to set the world on fire by doing big landscapes or something.” (Archives Interview) In the meantime he was painting in his room at Yale, Western and South American landscapes from memory. He persuaded a local frame-maker to place some of his efforts in the window of his shop, and managed to sell “one or two of the damn things.” (Archives Interview) A Yale hockey coach introduced him to Van Gogh, by way of a painting of the billiard table at the Cafe de Arles, of which Etnier said: “This was the first time I had ever seen anything modern that was not so stuffy and brown. This sort of opened up my palette... (it) impressed the hell out of me.” (Archives Interview) He decided at that time to “run away and go to South America to paint just as Gauguin had gone to the South Seas.” (Archives Interview) He departed in the middle of winter on a steamship bound for Brazil, returning from Rio with a few small broken-color paintings done on postcards, which he showed to his father, whose approval he always coveted. Of this encounter Etnier recollects, “Well, I had these lousy little things which my father took one quick look at and said, ‘If you call that work, forget it!” (Archives Interview) Etnier then re-entered Yale, but was dismissed shortly thereafter for poor grades. At his family’s behest, he spent several months working as a member of a survey team for the Georgia Power Co. in Tugalo, Georgia, where, influenced by the writing of F. Scott Fizgerald, he began penning a novel, Le Mauvais Quart d’Heure, which remained unfinished (He had previously written prose in prep school). Following his time in Georgia, he briefly attended the Boothbay Art School and Haverford College, before transferring to the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts, where he remained for four years.
At the outset of his tenure at the Pennsylvania Academy Etnier remained as unsatisfied with his progress as he had been at Yale: “I was stuck with the same damn thing... which was, you had to stay in the Antiques Class until you were passed. I had Daniel Garber who was my instructor. He was a toughie. So I did drawing after drawing after drawing of Roman emperors and no matter how careful I was I could never get him to pass me. There was always something wrong with them. I would get to the point where I would get very discouraged.” (Archives Interview) Finally, Etnier got the wife of artist John Carroll (‘Pinky’, as she was called) to execute a drawing for him so he could pass the class and advance into the ‘portrait’ and ‘life’ classes. He spent a summer with a faculty member - the artist Henry Breckinridge - in Gloucester, Massachusetts, but admits he was still not serious enough about his career, spending most of his time “tearing into Boston... leading quite a social life... I really didn’t do much work.” (Archives Interview) His career trajectory shifted dramatically following a lecture which he attended given at the Academy by the artist Rockwell Kent. He wrote Kent a letter and asked him if he would be willing to take on a student (At the time Kent was living in Au Sable Forks, New York). Kent, who had never had any students, wrote him back and asked him to come for a visit, and to bring some of his work for him to see. So Etnier brought him several broken-color paintings and one canvas he had painted on a schooner coming back from Bermuda. “I thought it was pretty good,” Etnier said of the painting done on the schooner. “But when I showed it to him, he said, ‘Well, that part which you think is good is obviously an accident.’ He wasn’t the least bit impressed... but I must have put over something to make him agree to take me.” (Archives Interview) In no time at all Kent had Etnier’s work “looking a hundred percent better than I realized I could paint. I couldn’t believe that this was happening. Kent told me, ‘All I’m doing is painting what I see. When it comes to mountains, paint them the way that they are. Paint them just the way that they are.’” (Archives Interview) While under Kent’s tutelege Etnier learned about the effect the constantly changing sunlight had on a particular work of art done en plein air: “In other words, you couldn’t paint a late-afternoon in the morning, because the light naturally had changed. So he would paint for about an hour and a half on one picture... then he’d go grab one facing in a different direction. Maybe one was a picture of a barn and maybe one was a picture of a mountain. But they were all painted at different times. So I became very conscious of the fact that if I wanted to make them look right I had to be consistent as far as time-of-day went. Of course, none of this has anything to do with A-R-T. This is simply trying to make things look the way they look. I still can’t ever think of my pictures as being anything but just pure realism... the motivation was never for ‘art’. It was simply to convey how excited I was about my reaction to various-and-sundry places. The only reason I paint is because, I think, (a locale) is wonderful and I want other people to know that it’s wonderful. You should paint what you love... you know, people aren’t seeing all the beauty that’s just around them, everywhere, even in a gas station... I sort of had a desire to help people see. They weren’t seeing all the obvious things, like river banks weren’t the only things you could make paintings of... If it doesn’t excite me, I don’t want to do it... I’ve talked to Andy (Andrew Wyeth) about it a good many times, and he thinks that both of us are really painting the same picture over and over again. Most painters do, except possibly for Picasso. Picasso’s a terrifically brilliant guy but I don’t have any feeling for that - it’s an art excitement which is beyond me, but not a life excitement... I have the same reaction to Matisse. That to me is ‘art’, you see. And has no bearing on whatever I’m trying to do, which is to simply be excited about being in the world and alive.” (Archives Interview) Within a year of working under Kent’s tutelege Etnier had one of his paintings accepted by the Carnegie Institute. But he eventually reached a point where he believed he had taken his association with Kent to its natural limit, and went up to New York to study under John Carroll, who helped him improve his drawing by emphasizing figure-painting, an area of his craft that had always been a weak spot. In 1931 he had his first two solo shows - at the Dudensing Galleries in New York City - but then had a falling-out with the owners and moved to the Milch Gallery, where he remained for thirty-five years. Following his long association with Milch he moved to the Midtown Galleries on East 57th Street, where he was represented for the balance of his career.
From the age of twenty-three, Etnier was married a total of five times. He first wed Mathilde Grey of Greenwich, Connecticut, in 1926. They had two daughters, Suzanne and Penelope, born in 1927 and 1929, respectively. After their divorce, Elizabeth Morgan Jay became his second wife in 1933 (Elizabeth was the great-granddaughter of John Jay, the first Chief Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court). Soon after their wedding Etnier bought the 70-foot schooner Morgana, and he and Elizabeth spent the next year sailing up and down the East Coast. They spent another year living on the yacht while doing the rebuilding of an old house that came with the purchase of Gilbert Head Island, near South Harpswell, Maine. Elizabeth, a writer, wrote a popular book about this phase of their life together, On Gilbert Head: Maine Days (1937). Their daughter Stephanie was born in 1936, followed by Victoria in 1940. The couple divorced in 1948, and Stephen’s next marriage, to Jane Pierce, ended tragically when Jane took her own life a year after they were wed. Samuella Brown Rose (Brownie) became the fourth Mrs. Etnier in 1950. The marriage lasted 33 years, and Etnier and Brownie moved into a home called Old Cove in South Harpswell, Maine. Son John was born in 1953 and son David in 1955. Etnier’s fifth marriage, to Marcia Hall, lasted only a few months in 1983, a year before Etnier died at his home in South Harpswell on November 7, 1984, at age 81.
Etnier’s life and art were irrevocably intertwined. He often painted en plein air, and brought a sense of discovery to every setting that he encountered. In a century (twentieth) when art had become introspective and abstract, his paintings offer rare examples of straightforward autobiography and provide meticulous documentation of his journeys and tastes. Though he was highly prolific, he was also extremely self-critical, and altered and destroyed many paintings. Benefitting from his relationship with Rockwell Kent, he developed a disciplined and vigorous approach to his art, compulsively arising before dawn every morning to capitalize on the qualities of early-morning light. For Etnier, the phenomenon of light was most intriguing when it generated attenuated diagonals of brightness and shadow or when it advanced toward the foreground of his paintings. His work demonstrates a long obsession with rendering light as it approaches the viewer. Many of his figures studies, and even his portraits and self-portraits, are backlit. In Etnier’s paintings, landscapes and figures exist and function within the definitive reality of light.
Because of his enthusiasm for adventure and Caribbean wanderings, Etnier has often been compared to his close contemporary, Ernest Hemingway. Like Hemingway, Etnier sought out adventures that supplied the subject-matter of his art. Each man sought to define himself as an independent and heroic figure. Both were aficionados of ocean sailing, stylish automobiles, and island life. Etnier’s lifelong enthusiasm for technology and consumer culture provided a series of themes that were explored by few other artists of his generation. In his essay for the 1998 Etnier exhibition Journeys over Water ( Portland Museum of Art), curator Daniel E. O. Leary explained, “Many of his paintings focus on signage, storefronts, advertising gimmicks on America’s unrefined commercial face, with its contrived energy and tawdry kitsch. Etnier was a scion of America’s Ash Can School, cut loose from city life, navigating among scenic coastal splendors and waterfront dives, from Maine to Florida, New Orleans, Jamaica, Nassau, Haiti, Barbados, Bermuda, and the Bahamas. He became a Jack Kerouac of the inland waterway, with deeper pockets and better social connections... (his) career produced an artistic travelogue, an inventory that is endlessly alert to the unsophisticated flavor of American life. He was a vagabond cultural observer, for whom the visual slang of ‘American’ revealed his country’s truest character... Etnier lavished particular attention and sensitivity upon Maine, his chosen home and source of identity. He came there first with his parents as a summer resident (he learned to sail before he was ten), then as a devoted sailor, a summer pioneer on Gilbert Head, and for the last thirty-five years of his life, as an established citizen at South Harpswell.” In his evolution as a painter, Etnier passed through three distinct artistic phases. Each phase or period was characterized by a separate and distinctive style. The unifying feature of the three phases was Etnier’s remarkable devotion to light.
Etnier’s first paintings introduce his lifelong themes and interests: adventure, independence, travel, and fascination with the luminous effects of light on water. His earliest efforts show the influence of Rockwell Kent, John Sloan, and George Bellows. In time Etnier moved beyond emulation of other artists and embarked upon a search for subjects and techniques that met his own criteria. His paintings of the 1930s are replete with the details of his everyday life and are characterized by a mood of studied nonchalance. Boston Public Gardens (ca.1930s; private collection) provides a prime example of this first stylistic phase. The painting’s broad brushstrokes and profuse colors indicate an Impressionistic approach to the subject-matter. Reflections of light and movement of water dominate the foreground. Most of these early paintings are anecdotal and frequently represent informal social gatherings and idyllic situations; these paintings of the thirties and early forties record a vision of a simple and straightforward America, serving as peaceful commentaries on the norms, manners, and pastimes of the artist’s peers during this era of innocence. Another well-known painting of this period, Out for Repairs (1937), depicts the estate at the mouth of the Kennebec River that he and his second wife Elizabeth acquired and began to restore in 1934.
The works of the thirties and early forties employ reserved colors and are often dominated by subdued greens. The paintings suggest an ear of apparent stability and repose. His choices of subjects during this period emphasize recreation, playfulness, and gentle diversions. Many of Etnier’s early paintings were based upon photographs taken of the splendid natural panorama of coastal Maine. The paintings of the Gilbert Head period represent his efforts to incorporate these dramatically inspiring vistas within the traditions of American landscape painting. His career during the 1930s and early 1940s was intimately tied to the coast of Maine and to Gilbert Head until it was interrupted by World War II.
In 1941, at the age of thirty-eight, Etnier suspended his artistic career to serve in the U.S. Navy. In May, 1942, he was commissioned as a lieutenant and assigned as commanding officer of the USS Mizpah, a North Atlantic escort ship. In 1944 he was reassigned to the USS Tourmaline in Boston, and later to the USS Omar Bundy in San Francisco. He completed his tour of duty in 1945.
Following the war, Etnier’s art took a turn toward the somber; the lightheartedness of the prewar period never fully returned to his paintings. The work of the late forties and early fifties is characterized by desolate marine settings, sparsely lit early morning expanses, and austere winter scenes. A solemn mood emerges as his art embraces atmosphere and isolation. The paintings often lack color and are frequently devoid of human figures. Light reflecting across still water becomes his fundamental preoccupation. From this period dates one of Etnier’s most evocative paintings, Royal River, Yarmouth, Maine. Slight patches of blue provide the only suggestion of color in a silver and ebony expanse. The subdued light and the languid character of the painting create an aura of disenchantment. Obscure, threatening skies rise over a world that has become chilled and unnurturing, symbolic of the impenetrable wall that had arisen between Etnier and the sublime and careless era of his early childhood. This shift toward a more somber palette and bleaker vision may have been the direct result of his wartime experiences, the conflicts leading to his divorce from Elizabeth in 1948, and the death in 1949 of his third wife, Jane. If the prewar works imply confidence and equanimity, the postwar works suggest uncertainty and troubled reflection. Other notable paintings from this period are A Turn of the Road (1945), End of Day (1947), Beachcomber (1950), Autumn Sun (1953), Year’s End (1955), Winter: Casco Bay (1955), and Into the Sun (1963). The paintings of the later 1950s and early 1960s combine rigidity of form, stark linearity, and capricious, artificial colors to form a style that could be called late Deco or 1950s Modern. His fascination with consumer culture imagery and his keen awareness of advertising, signage, and brand names also became increasingly evident during this period. His work of the 1950s anticipates the interest in popular culture that dominated the art of the following decade and can be seen at times as proto-pop. Examples of his work from this period are Cool of the Day, Barbados (1954) and Esso (1959).
Etnier’s concentration of landscapes during the 1950s and 1960s demonstrates a strong preference for unspoiled and solitary locations. Having made his choice to live in the harsh but inspiring coast of Harpswell, Maine, Etnier enforced a discipline that enabled him to record extensive areas of the region. He worked in Maine through most of the year and traveled south each winter, usually navigating his own vessels and retaining the role of careful observer of the landscape, the environment, and the era. A precise sense of place, which is frequently absent from twentieth-century art, is always fundamental to his work. For the remainder of his life Etnier showed a growing inclination to explore and record the coast of Maine. It is from the mid-1960s on that the majority of his Maine coastal subjects emerge. These works, which could easily constitute an exhibition in themselves, document many of the key landmarks of Maine and provide carefully observed records of harbors and sites. As Etnier worked through the sixties, his color schemes became less muted and grew vivid, artificial, and eccentric. The colors - often vigorous oranges, saturated pinks, and neon greens - reflect retail and fashion trends of the period. His dynamic colors often recall the flamboyant automotive hues then current. The 1960s represent the most highly stylized phase in his career. His treatment of objects and figures often turned angular and geometric. Dozens of pictures from this period commemorate journeys by water and feature isolated sites. In addition to his usual openness to the aesthetics of machinery and random objects, his work took on a growing fascination with flamboyant coastal architecture, including stores, taverns, and honky-tonk settings.
Etnier’s work of the later 1950s and 1960s represents the period when his most characteristic and recognizable style emerged. The stability of his life during his thirty-three year marriage to Samuella Rose, her willingness to manage the business and domestic aspects of their lives together, and their comfortable existence in Maine with their two sons provided an equilibrium that allowed Etnier to concentrate on his painting. By the mid-1960s Etnier had developed a balanced approach to his work that allowed that decade to become the most prolific phase of his career.
The paintings of the final decades of Etnier’s career increase in scale and in equanimity. His palette becomes softer and more natural, yielding warmer colors and subtle harmonies. The paintings reveal the delicate action of his brush and the use of thin glazes that allow layers of underpainting to glow through to and enrich the surface. His work grows increasingly Spartan and is characterized by grace, simplicity, and a refined sensitivity to light. Two notable examples of this late period are Whitehall and Lobster Boat (both from the late 1970s). Few, if any, new subjects are introduced during the last fifteen years of his life. Instead Etnier seemed determined to revisit and refine the fundamental concerns of his earlier periods. His last paintings are ultimate variations on his favorite themes. Many of his earlier subjects and scenes are redefined with self-confidence and restraint. In these pictures there may appear to be an excess of vacant space until one observes that the real content of the painting is the light itself, and that light is the coherent force that unites these objects and environments.
Water and light enrich and empower Etnier’s last paintings and allow him to refine the fundamental qualities that were always present in his art. In the paintings of the 1970s there emerges a serenity that becomes the final Etnier signature. Because of the gradations of color and variations of light in his late paintings, the pictures must be meticulously lighted to reveal the depth of observation they convey. They represent Etnier’s final artistic statements on luminosity. It is perhaps interesting to note that this final phase in his career was a high point in his experiences with commercial galleries: Two highly successful shows at the PS Galleries in Dallas, Texas in 1981 and 1983 resulted in nearly every painting being sold on the opening nights.
Though Etnier’s work has always been placed firmly within the camp of realism, there are many features in his work that are at odds with realist painting. His highly idiosyncratic style favored rigid lines, angular forms, eccentric patterns, and particularly in the 1960s highly artificial colors. It has been argued that he painted abstractions that ostensibly function as landscapes. His surfaces are rarely simple representations, but instead perform abstract and decorative roles. His treatment of the human figure is always subjective and abbreviated, almost to the point of his figures taking on the form of ‘matchsticks’.
During his lifetime Etnier was often identified as a ‘romantic realist’. This description stems from the inherent charm of his paintings and from his fascination with nature and with exotic locations. Like many members of the nineteenth-century romantic movement, he was attracted to landscape as a means of escaping from constrictive social systems and as a way to explore the poetic aspects of nature. Though he never entirely rejected society, he gravitated toward the incongruous, the eccentric, and the peripheral. Many observers of his work feel that his most successful paintings engage his viewers in admiring the atmosphere, texture, and illumination of the natural world.
The central element in his romanticism, however, was not his choice of subject-matter, but instead his implicit trust in the inner self and his devotion to individual experience. He was profoundly romantic in his commitment to the intuitive and the subjective, and favored themes that not only are associated with romanticism, but personified the deep individuality that forms the very core of the spirit of romanticism. He often expressed his frustration that, in the case of realistic painting, many viewers responded simply to the subject rather than paying attention to the painting itself. He once remarked to his friend, the painter Robert Solotaire, that “I want people to see the painting, not just see the picture.”
While traveling south in the winter to warmer climes, Etnier produced many of his most notable paintings. Of the various island destinations where he dropped anchor, perhaps Bermuda stands out as the one where some of his finest work away from his beloved Maine was executed. He first visited there in 1928, painting a large oil entitled Hamilton Harbor, Bermuda, which was featured in a 1932 exhibition at the Milch Galleries in New York. On his way back to Florida following this trip he produced a painting inscribed ‘en route from Bermuda to Jacksonville, Florida. June 1928’. He returned to the island in 1934 and 1935, staying at the New Windsor Hotel on Queen Street, Hamilton. On one of those two visits he oil-painted From the New Windsor Hotel, Bermuda, which was a view overlooking Par-la-Ville Gardens, as well as producing the watercolor, Bermuda Park. His watercolor of the old A.S. Cooper building on Front Street was erroneously titled Bicycle Shop, Bermuda, when it was exhibited at a 1935 Cleveland Museum of Art show. Perhaps it was a preliminary study for a smaller oil painting of the same name, which was exhibited at the Milch Galleries in 1934. Of this exhibition the New York Times Art Critic Edward Jewell said: “From Bermuda the artist has brought back several charming canvases, best of all, perhaps, being the small Bicycle Shop. In this picture Etnier has created a synthesis that most tellingly sheperds to focus his fine sense of colour. But in other pictures too, he charms the eye with the freshness and beauty of his surfaces.” His Bermuda Garden was exhibited at the Art Institute of Chicago in 1936, and his undated oil-on-masonite Race Day, Bermuda is also known to exist. He seems to have returned to Bermuda again in 1950, but no evidence exists of any paintings being produced during this visit.
Another foreign port-of-call that served as an inspiration to Etnier’s artistic eye was the Bahamas. A good number of paintings produced there formed a prominent part of many exhibitions over the years, including: High Noon, Nassau; Nassau Morning; Sloop Nassau; Repairs Nassau; Girl with Bananas; Hot Sun; Nassau Harbor Construction; Coral Mountain, Nassau; Waterfront, Bahamas; Fresh Breeze; Beached Out, Bahamas; Movie House, Nassau; and Lighthouse Service Deck, Nassau.
Etnier’s work was exhibited at many one-man shows, including two at the prestigious Doll and Richards Gallery in Boston (1945 and 1946); a showcase at the Santa Barbara (California) Museum of Art (1945); a collection of his Caribbean paintings at the Bowdoin College Museum of Art in Brunswick, Maine (1951); a retrospective of 48 paintings organized by the Farnsworth Art Museum in Rockland, Maine (Retrospective Exhibition: Covering 25 Years in the Artistic Life of Stephen M. Etnier, 1953); exhibitions at the Fairleigh Dickenson College Art Museum in Rutherford, New Jersey and the University of Maine Art Gallery in Orono, Maine (1954); a show at the Bates College Museum of Art in Lewiston, Maine (1961); and a joint-exhibition (with sculptor Charles Rudy) for two of York County’s ‘native sons’ at the York County Historical Society (1960). Posthumously, a major exhibition was mounted in 1989 at the York County Historical Society (Stephen Etnier, 1903-1984: A Retrospective); and in 1998 at the Portland Museum of Art (Journeys Over Water: The Paintings of Stephen Etnier).
Etnier’s paintings were also part of a large number of group shows, including the Women’s Club Auditorium of Philadelphia Exhibition (1932, where Bermuda Scene was shown); the first Biennial Exhibition at the Whitney Museum in New York (1933); the Carnegie Institute International Exhibition in Pittsburgh (1935, where Bermuda Garden was displayed); the 1936 Group Exhibition at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York (where Into the Sun was acquired and displayed); the 1936 Group Exhibition at the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts; and numerous exhibitions at the National Academy of Design in New York and the York Art Center Galleries in York, Pennsylvania.
Over the course of his career Etnier was the recipient of many awards and prizes, amongst them being: Honorable Mention from the Art Institute of Chicago (1932; Mackeral Cove); Winner of Competition for Post Office Mural, Everett, Massachusetts (1938); Winner of Competition for Post Office Mural, Spring Valley, New York (1939); I.B.M. Corporation Gallery of Science and Art Award at the World’s Fair (1940; The Clam Bake); Elected as Academician to the National Academy of Design (1953); Butler Art Institute of Youngstown, Ohio Purchase Prize (1953; Accra Beach); National Academy of Design Saltus Gold Medal (1955; Caribbean Moon); National Academy of Design Benjamin Altman Landscape Prize (1956; Port of Call); Maine State Art Festival Award: First Prize (1962; Fish House); National Academy of Design Samuel F.B. Morse Gold Medal (1964; Afternoon Sun); Honorary Doctorates in Fine Arts: Bowdoin College, Maine and Bates College, Maine (1969).
Numerous art associations and museums elected Etnier to their membership rosters, most notably the Metropolitan Museum of Art; the National Academy of Design; the Boston Museum of Fine Arts; the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts; the Phillips Memorial Gallery of Washington, D.C.; the New Britain Museum of Art in Connecticut; the Farnsworth Museum of Art in Maine; and the Wadsworth Atheneum Museum of Art in Hartford, Connecticut.
Permanent collections that feature Etnier’s paintings include the Metropolitan Museum of Art; the Los Angeles Museum of Art; the Toledo Museum; the Boston Museum; the Portland (Maine) Museum; the Farnsworth Museum; the Dallas Museum; the Springfield (Massachusetts) Museum; the New Britain Museum of Art; the Parrish Art Museum; the Pennsylvania Academy of Art; the Yale University Art Gallery; the Vassar College Art Library; Bowdoin College; Fairleigh Dickenson College; the Brigham Young Museum; the Duncan Phillips Collection; the Wadsworth Atheneum Museum of Art; the National Academy of Design; the Butler Art Institute; Gettysburg College; the York (Pennsylvania) Historical Society; the University of Maine; Farmington State College; Greenwich Art Museum; and Bates College.
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