Sunday, March 22, 2015

Annie Cooper Boyd

I recently read the wonderful book, Anchor to Windward, The Paintings and Diaries of Annie Cooper Boyd.  The book's editor, Carolyn Oldenbusch, offers a glimpse into the life of one of Sag Harbor's early artists by combining quotes from Annie's diaries with sketches and watercolors. There are also some precious early photographs. The book is an introduction to a woman that I immediately wanted to know more about.
Annie Cooper Boyd (1864 - 1944)
image courtesy Sag Harbor Historical Society
On Main Street Sag Harbor, it is easy to walk past this small shingled house without a second glance. It is surrounded by mansions built during the halcyon days of Sag Harbor's whaling industry. A sign in front labels the cottage a museum, the Sag Harbor Historical Society. In smaller letters the sign reads, The 1796 Home of Annie Cooper Boyd. I had visited the museum previously for a show of Hjalmar "Cappy" Amunden's work, but was ignorant of who Annie Cooper Boyd actually was. My recent reading reveals her to be a woman who could easily have been the inspiration for a heroine in a Edith Wharton or Henry James novel. Her diaries and artwork characterize an enthusiastic spirit and capture the atmosphere of the time in which she lived.
Watercolor by Annie Cooper Boyd 
image courtesy Sag Harbor Historical Society
Annie Burnham Cooper was born in Sag Harbor. Daughter of William Cooper, a prosperous master boat builder, Annie was the youngest of 11 children. Her childhood home is the stately home next door to the modest cottage which she later inherited.
Annie Cooper Boyd (nee Burnam Cooper) grew up in this house built by her grandfather in 1813.
Sketch by Annie Cooper Boyd
courtesy of Sag Harbor Historical Society
Sag Harbor Historical Society, Home of Annie Cooper Boyd
The first record of the home that was to become the current museum is a 1796 mortgage record. Annie's father acquired the little house next door in 1871 and left it to Annie upon his death in 1894. A year later Annie married William John Boyd. She and her new husband took up residence in Brooklyn and used the Sag Harbor cottage as a summer residence. They had two children, William Cooper (1898) and Nancy (1902). Annie eventually moved to the cottage full time. It was her daughter Nancy Boyd Willey who bequeathed the house and her mother's diaries and art collection to the Historical Society.
image courtesy of Sag Harbor Historical Society
"What I'd like you to say about my mother's painting goes something like this - My mother, Annie Cooper Boyd always had a paint brush in hand. Her art was a vital thing in our lives, but always subordinate to the summer joys of picnicking and swimming, games, partying, and charity work. My father, William John Boyd, was the ultimate supporter of her art." - Nancy Boyd Willey, from the preface to "Anchor to Windward"
I visited the Annie Cooper Boyd house this past Saturday to photograph its exterior with a fresh dusting of spring snow. As I walked towards the front door I was surprised to see a light on inside. Members of the Historical Society were holding a meeting and generously allowed me in to take photos of the interior.
Taken from back window in Cooper House
by Annie Cooper, 1886
image courtesy of Sag Harbor Historical Society
"... One day I was riding on horseback, through West Water Street in back of my dear old 'Home Sweet Home'. At High tide the water was so high that the horse (whose name is Jenny, how I love that horse) could scarcely keep from swimming. I just put my feet up over the animal. Almost in my lap, and sat there just as if I was in a rocking chair at home. ... Many and many a times I have rode in the 'Bay'.. I am nearly the only girl here that rides all year around. "Diary - August 30, 1880
Annie and "Jenny"
image courtesy of the Sag Harbor Historical Society
View from Annie's bedroom in the Cooper house depicting  her father's barn and whaleboat shop.
image courtesy of Sag Harbor Historical Society
"... I took painting lessons of the Misses Granbery on East 47th St, NY. Everyday for a month and worked real hard at it. I did enjoy it more than I ever can tell anyone. Since my return I have painted quite a good deal, keeping up my practice, paint an hour or two every day if possible. I do hope that my kind Heavenly Father will prosper me in my chosen profession and beloved Art, for I do love it and now what I want to do is to have a class in painting next fall and winter and to sell my work, get orders, etc. so that I may be able to help support myself and the family expenses to help bear. I am 22 years old and I think that it is only right that I should be doing something and I consecrate my work all to God's service." Diary - April 7, 1887
Annie's bedroom in the cottage with painted mural on the dormer wall.
Sculptural details on old chimney brick.
Sunset Beach (at the end of the road) North Haven L.I.
Watercolor by Annie Cooper Boyd
courtesy of the Sag Harbor Historical Society
The Annie Cooper Boyd house exhibits the artist's creative touch on multiple surfaces.
 Closeup of cherub faces painted on canvas.
On a door, a painting of the Beebe Windmill, built in Sag Harbor in 1820. The Windmill was later moved to Bridgehampton.
The Beebee Mill 1890
As it stood on Suffolk Street 
Sag Harbor, LI NY
by Annie Cooper Boyd
Open May through September
Hours Saturday and Sunday 1:00 - 4:00 pn

There is more to tell and more to find out about Annie Cooper Boyd.
Until next time.

1 comment:

  1. Her styles are so different..we have one particular home just 3 streets over that look like hers..I'll try and take a pic soon and send to you!
    Lovely words.. art.. some things so different in the 1800's..some not so much;)


Thank you for your comments!