Friday, September 21, 2012


(Jay York, Photographer)

Am. 1882 – 1967
Tredwell's Folly, Monhegan
Oil on board
8 × 10 in.
(20.3 × 25.4 cm)

Property of Ruthie Tredwell, Hampton, New Hampshire


The artist
To Alonzo Slote Tredwell, the artist's doctor on Monhegan Island
By descent in the family to the current owner

No one could say it better. Ruthie Tredwell, then, in her own words:

Edward Hopper’s oil painting “Tredwell’s Folly” can be seen as an illustration of my grandfather, Dr Alonzo Tredwell (Doc), and a moment in his life on Monhegan Island in the early 1900’s. Doc Tredwell bought land on Monhegan Island on August 26, 1907. He built a house on it in 1908. It is adjacent to the house just above Lobster Cove that Rockwell Kent built for his mother also in 1908 (now owned by Jamie Wyeth).

Hopper’s painting “Tredwell’s Folly” is part memoir, part family chronicle, and part history lesson. The background of the oil painting by artist Edward was explained to me by my grandmother (Doc’s wife) Ruth Tredwell. As a child I had spent many hours with her, learning about early Monhegan as an art colony, and the notable American artists who painted it. Years later, she gave me the Edward Hopper painting as a gift.

Our house on Monhegan Island always seemed like a museum, filled with many artifacts and ephemera, which all chronicled my grandfather’s life while on Monhegan Island during the early 1900’s. In addition to other works of art and objects my grandfather had aquired on Monhegan, was the Edward Hopper painting, “Tredwell’s Folly.” The history of these items were especially fascinating to me, as I was curious about my grandfather, having never met him. He had passed away in 1933 when my father was still a small child.

Ruth told me of Doc’s busy life in NYC, and how he had ventured off during summers to escape from the city and his busy medical practice. One summer in the late 1800’s while vacationing in Maine aboard a schooner, he came upon Monhegan Island and fell in love with its wild beauty and tranquility. He visited the island every summer, and eventually bought land in 1907 on Monhegan’s southern end known as Lobster Cove.

He soon befriended Monhegan native and builder, Will Stanley. Together my grandfather and Will discussed how Doc would build his new Island home on Lobster Cove’s windy point, and how the house could be built to endure any storm and torrential winds. Will built a solid house, using extra large beams to hold up to any Maine storms and constant high winds. This gave reason to name the house “Four Winds”.

A few years later, in 1919, Doc commissioned Will to build a dory for fishing. This dory was not as successful as the house Will had built Doc. In fact, the boat was named “Tredwell’s Folly.” It was truly a mistake to have Will, a house builder, act as a boat builder. The commissioned dory Will built was not at all seaworthy. Will wanted to make good on the deal by replacing Doc’s un-seaworthy dory with his own dory (as seen in Hopper’s painting).

While the two friends stood by the beached dory on Monhegan’s “Fish Beach”, the discussion became tense, yet quiet and still. This scene was captured by artist Edward Hopper in the painting “Tredwell’s Folly.” Hopper knew Doc as the Island Doctor, and had reached out for help to treat an ailment earlier in the week. A few days after painting it, Edward Hopper headed up to Lobster Cove to visit Doc at Four Winds. Doc greeted the artist at the door. Hopper then handed Doc the small painting of him and Will Stanley next to the beached dory and Will’s working dory. As Hopper was still a struggling painter, he gave the painting to Doc in exchange for the medical treatment he had received the week before. It was not unusual at that time for artists to exchange paintings for services or store goods. Doc got a great laugh out of Hopper’s painting, and as soon as the piece was framed, it was hung on the wall at Four Winds.

Edward Hopper’s oil painting, “Tredwell’s Folly,” remained on Monhegan Island at the Tredwell house until 2011. I had kept the Hopper painting in the same place on the wall where it had hung since the summer afternoon he brought it to my grandfather at Four Winds in 1919.