Famous view of Mount Chocorua, photo taken in the White Mountains, NH.
One of my favorite family images tied to New Hampshire is that of Mount Chocorua. My paternal grandmother loved to paint with oils, and towards the end of her life (until her eyesight and hand tremors from aging interfered with her ability) she would make gifts of her paintings to family members. My father was the second of three of her sons, a middle child, and so only a few of his kids were given paintings. I was lucky enough to be one of them–a small painting of chickadees gifted to me for a birthday when a child.
My painting from my Nana.
Yet, one of the best paintings she created was given to my father and mother, for an anniversary gift. Nana (Betty Kehl) painted the famous peak of Mount Chocorua, a landmark that has captured the interest of painters going back to the famous Hudson River Artists.
The painting of Mount Chocorua by my grandmother, Betty Kehl.
A sign of colonial America, Thomas Cole had famously painted the mountain several times, even using it for a dramatic backdrop for a painted illustration for James Fennimore Cooper’s The Last of the Mohicans. Over and over, the icon of Mount Chocorua became associated with Early American settlement, and Lydia Maria Child even wrote about the legend of “Chocorua’s Curse.”
Thomas Cole’s illustration for Cooper’s The Last of the Mohicans.
Later, another famous artist, Maxfield Parrish, who was a member of the Cornish Colony of artists in Cornish, NH, referenced this famous peak in both fantastical and landscape paintings that were turned into prints.
“Daybreak” by Maxfield Parrish, which features Mount Chocorua’s peak.
These images remain in my imagination largely from the art that hung in my family members’ homes. Parrish’s print was one that my Aunt Mary Ann, my mother’s sister, had up as part of her interior design. At that time, the prints were taken from publications or periodical illustrations, cut out and framed, like Norman Rockwell’s art in magazines.
With the 20th Century and the advent of photography, hand-tinted prints of famous NH landmarks became available. My mother had a Charles Sawyer print of Echo Lake, for example, that hung in my parents’ bedroom. Like other pieces of art I grew up seeing, that image helped shape the way I saw New Hampshire, through an artist’s lens.
This Charles Sawyer image hangs in the dining room across from my Nana’s painting.
Fascinating that a novice and so many prominent American artists were all inspired by this humble NH mountain peak.