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 John Goss  (1887 - 1963)

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Lived/Active: Massachusetts/Maine      Known for: illustration, design, marine, landscape

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Ad Code: 4
John Goss
from Auction House Records.
Artwork images are copyright of the artist or assignee
This biography from the Archives of AskART:
The following, submitted May 2005, is from Penny Wise Kerns, granddaughter of the artist, who in her words "was lucky enough to live within walking distance of her grandparents house until their deaths."

John Goss was born in 1887 in Lewiston, Maine. He began his study of watercolor and drawing with Lewiston teachers when he was nine years old. His first exhibition as an artist was in the Art Exhibit at the Maine State Fair Grounds when he was twelve; and he exhibited watercolors every year at the Fair while in Lewiston. At age 18 he went to study at Rhode Island School of Design. He went to Boston in 1906, where for several years he shared a studio with type designer and illustrator, W.A. (Bill) Dwiggins.

John Goss specialized in book and magazine illustrations, as well as commercial advertising, until joining the faculty of Rhode Island School of Design, where he taught watercolor and lithography, and eventually became head of the Graphic Arts Department.

He was a member of the American Watercolor Society, The Copley Society and The Providence Art Club. In the 1930's he exhibited with The Group of Six (Boston painters) all over the Eastern United States. His obituary claims that his work was exhibited in all 50 states and Canada.

During the 1920's and 30's, he and his family summered in Rockport, MA, enjoying the lighthearted, creative fun that wonderful artists' colony dreamed up. One summer the group wrote and produced a silent movie ("Stone Fences"), starring my beautiful grandmother as the romantic lead.

In 1940 John Goss bought an abandoned schoolhouse in East Boothbay, Maine, which he converted into a summer home and studio. He continued to paint watercolors, create lithographs and teach there until his death in 1963.

Expanding into theatrical lighting and set design was not a long stretch, so it is no surprise that John's other great lifelong passion was the theatre. In the mid-1930's he participated in an experimental theatre project organized by Hallie Flanagan and Lester E. Lang at Vassar College. He was director, designer, and sometimes actor as well, for the Walpole (MA) Footlighters for over 30 years, and held similar positions at the Boothbay (ME) Playhouse, working there with some of early television's ground-breaking producers and directors.

Goss drew his inspiration primarily from the places he lived and worked: from the
back yards and streets of Boston, Providence, and Walpole, MA, to seaside vistas, working harbors and hills of Maine and Massachusetts. His theatre experiences made him an inveterate "people watcher", and the figures in his paintings and portraits often reflect a delightful sense of character. His wife was a skilled gardener, and there are numerous vibrant watercolors of the gardens, and still-lifes of the bouquets that constantly filled their homes.

Just as John could never settle for specializing in one artistic medium (he even won a couple of juried photo shows along the way!), he continued throughout his life to experiment with a variety of styles - from the realistic illustrations, to forays into impressionism, romanticism and cubism. It appears that perhaps he enjoyed changing character on paper, just as he enjoyed doing so on stage!

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