James Fitzgerald Biography

View Art by James Fitzgerald

James Fitzgerald (1899-1971) Born: Milton, MA; Studied: Massachusetts School of Art, Boston Museum School of Art; Member: California Water Color Society, Carmel Art Association. James Fitzgerald lived in Monterey from the early 1930s to the mid-1940s. His watercolors depict the Monterey Peninsula area and were exhibited with the California Water Color Society. He was involved with a number of W.P.A. projects, including a large mural for the Los Angeles County Fairgrounds. He moved to Monhegan Island off the coast of Maine in the 1940s and continued to paint both watercolors and oils.

Biographical information:

Monterey: The Artist’s View (Catalog).

Biography courtesy of California Watercolors 1850-1970,

©2002 Hillcrest Press, Inc.

California Watercolor


The following information is provided by the James Fitzgerald Legacy.

James E. Fitzgerald (1899-1971) was born in Boston, MA.  By the age of four, his artistic talents were recognized, and a studio space was created for him in his parent’s attic.  As a child, he would visit his grandparent’s farm in Milton, MA, where he began a lifelong love of painting horses.  After serving in the U.S. Marine Corps from 1918-1919, he enrolled in the Massachusetts School of Art (1919-1923), and subsequently at the Boston Museum School (1923-24).  During semester break in 1923, he shipped aboard the Elizabeth Howard out of Gloucester, MA, initially to paint and sketch, but following a violent storm that left one sailor injured, he joined the crew and learned to jump into the dories for halibut fishing off the Grand Banks.  In 1925 he made his first visit to Monhegan, Maine.

In 1928, Fitzgerald sailed as an able bodied seaman on the Dorothy Luckenbach out of New York City, working his way to the West coast.  Although he had intended to reach Alaska, his travels took him to Monterey, CA, where he settled, married and built a home/studio.  While in Monterey, he became a part of the circle of friends who gathered at the Cannery Row marine biology laboratory of Edward ‘Doc’ Ricketts.  The group included John Steinbeck, Krishnamurti, John Cage and Joseph Campbell, among others.  During this time, Fitzgerald’s interest in Eastern Philosophy matured, and he brought to his art its principles, seeking to express the inner vitality or spiritual rhythm of his subjects.

Fitzgerald exhibited extensively in California during the 1930s, winning at one point first prize in the California Watercolor Society exhibition.  He continued to travel east and paint on Monhegan during those years, and eventually decided to settle there in 1943.  Its remoteness led to the dissolution of his marriage, and Fitzgerald, who in the 1940s had exhibited at Vose Gallery in Boston, gradually withdrew from the commercial art world.

On Monhegan, Fitzgerald became part of the year-round community, purchasing first the studio and then the house built by Rockwell Kent in the first decade of the 20th century.  As a studio artist, he was seen standing for hours capturing mentally the cliffs, gulls, or fishermen as they worked, returning to his easel to paint.  His images of gulls wheeling over fishermen cleaning cod on Monhegan’s Fish Beach have become iconic.  In those years, a lasting friendship developed with Anne M. Hubert, who along with her husband Edgar, eventually became his executors and heirs.

For the last 25 years of his life, Fitzgerald visited Katahdin in the off-season to paint, and in the late 1960s he visited Ireland several times, where he died on the Aran Islands suddenly in April 1971.   The James Fitzgerald Legacy, a part of the Monhegan Museum, represents the artist’s estate.

Major Exhibitions

Santa Cruz Art League Third Annual, Santa Cruz, CA [#47 Group of Three, first prize in watercolor group].

Water Color Paintings, Pastels, and Drawings by American and European Artists, Brooklyn Museum, Brooklyn, NY, January 23-February 27.

California Water Color Society, Los Angeles, CA, October 12 – November 11.

California Water Color Society, Los Angeles, CA, October 4 – November 10.

New Burlington Galleries, Goupil Gallery Salon, London, England [group show].

Ferargil Galleries, New York, March 27.

Golden Gate International Exposition, San Francisco, CA, February 18 – December 2.

International Watercolor Exhibition, 10th Biennial, Brooklyn Museum of Art, Brooklyn, NY, Marc 18 – April 30.

California Water Color Society, Los Angeles, CA, October 12 – November 19.

Exhibition of Paintings in Water Colors by James Fitzgerald: Subjects of Maine Coast, Vermont and California,” Hotel Del Monte Gallery, Monterey, CA, May 12 – July.

Stendahl Galleries, Los Angeles, CA, January 2 – January 16.

Pacific Coast States Water color Exhibition, sponsored by the California Water Color Society, Riverside Museum, New York, NY, March 5 – April 27.

Recent Watercolors by James Fitzgerald, Milch Gallery, New York, NY, January 24 – February 12.

Walker Art Gallery, Bowdoin College, Brunswick, ME, July, and L.D.M. Sweat Memorial Museum, Portland, ME, August.

1944, 1945, 1947, & 1948
Solo exhibitions at Vose Gallery, Boston, MA

James Fitzgerald (1899-1971). Arvest Galleries, Boston, May 31-June 29 [Traveled to: Lamont Gallery, Phillips Exeter Academy, Andover, MA, September 24 – October 19, and Hopkins Center, Dartmouth College, Hanover, NH, November 27 – January 1].

Exhibition of Paintings by James Fitzgerald, Attleboro Museum, Attleboro, MA, October.

Exhibition of Watercolors by James Fitzgerald, Mead Art Gallery, Amherst College, Amherst, MA, February 16 – March 21.

Danforth Museum, Framingham, MA.

Visual Arts Center, Antioch College, Columbia, MD, March.

Monterey Peninsula Museum of Art, Monterey, CA, April 7-29.

Massachusetts College of Art, Boston, MA.

Farnsworth Museum, Rockland, ME, November – December.

James Fitzgerald: Paintings and Drawings, De Cordova Museum, Lincoln, MA, January 20 – March 3.

James Fitzgerald.  Monterey Peninsula Museum of Art, Monterey, CA, May 4 – June 16.

New Britain Museum of Art, New Britain, CT, February 17 – March 29.

Regionalism: The California View Watercolors 1929-1945, Santa Barbara Museum of Art, Santa Barbara, CA, August.

Paintings by James Fitzgerald, 1899-1971, Northeastern University, Boston, MA, October.

American Watercolors, Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, MA.

By Land and Sea: The Quest of James Fitzgerald, Portland Museum of Art, Maine, May 2 – July 19 and Myers Fine Arts Gallery, SUNY Plattsburgh Art Museum, September 26 – November 8,

James Fitzgerald (1899-1971) Animal Kingdom, Gleason Fine Art, Boothbay Harbor, ME, August 17 – September 11.

Watercolors by James Fitzgerald, St. Botolph Club, Boston, March 19 – May 3.

Massachusetts College of Art, Alumni/ae Gallery, Boston, September 11 – October 15.

James Fitzgerald and Spiritual Transformation, Lore Degenstein Gallery, Susquehanna University, Selinsgrove, PA, October 25 – December 14.

Independent Spirit: Watercolors by James Fitzgerald, Gleason Fine Art, Boothbay Harbor, ME, July 15 – August 10.

Beyond Description: Abstraction in the Oil Paintings of James Fitzgerald, Monhegan Museum, ME, July 1 – September 30.

James Fitzgerald Strong Values, Gleason Fine Art, Boothbay Harbor, ME, September 16 – October 21.

Katahdin: James Fitzgerald’s Mountain, Gleason Fine Art, Boothbay Harbor, ME, July 1-27.

James Fitzgerald – Katahdin, Tom Veilleux Gallery, Portland, ME.

Pacific Light: A Survey of Californian Watercolour, 1908-2008, Nordiska Akvarellmuseet (Nordic Watercolour Museum), Skärhamn, Sweden, May 18 – September 14, [Fitzgerald’s Fisherman's Funeral].

James Fitzgerald and the Elizabeth Howard, Farnsworth Art Museum, Rockland, ME, January 29 – June 26.