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 Ralph Eugene Jr Cahoon  (1910 - 1982)

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Lived/Active: Massachusetts      Known for: contemporary naive, mermaids, genre

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Ad Code: 2
Ralph Eugene Jr Cahoon
from Auction House Records.
"Shocking Incident at the Boston Public Garden"
Artwork images are copyright of the artist or assignee
This biography from the Archives of AskART:
Ralph Eugene Cahoon, Jr. was born in 1910 in Chatham, Cape Cod, Massachusetts. A direct descendant of the first Dutch settlers, his family had emigrated in the 1660s from Scotland directly to Cape Cod. As a boy, Ralph often played close to the harbor, fishing, digging for clams or scallops. Sailing to the Grand Banks or Nantucket was a favorite pastime, as was sketching.

His works often found their way into his high school's newspaper. He completed a correspondence course in cartooning while in high school, and in 1929 was accepted into Boston's School of Practical Art, concentrating on both fine and commercial art.

He met and married Martha Farham in 1932. Born of Swedish immigrant parents in 1905, in Rosindale, Massachusetts, she had family that moved to Harwich on Cape Code when she was ten years old. She excelled in school, but chose an apprenticeship with her father, Axel Farham, who was a talented furniture decorator working for some of the best-known decorating firms in Boston. Under his guidance, she mastered a free-hand method of decorative painting called rosemaling, and later became proficient in stenciling and varnishing.

After her marriage, she continued working with her father until she and Ralph bought a house in Osterville, Massachusetts. Their business life together began as they restored, decorated, and sold antique furniture. In 1945, they purchased and restored a Georgian colonial farmhouse in Cotuit, Massachusetts.

Their earlier works reflected traditional patterns of Pennsylvania Dutch and Swedish painted furniture, however they later began painting entire scenes on the fronts of secretaries and bureaus. In 1953, the Cahoon's framed many works of a wealthy customer, Joan Whitney Payson. Later they made a transition from furniture to easel painting, and exhibited their work in Payson's Long Island art gallery.

It was a successful transition for the Cahoon's, as were the years of productivity that followed. The material they first used was plywood, but later they favored masonite, whose surface better resembled that of the furniture they were used to decorating. Their individual styles were very similar, primarily pastel in tone, using greens, soft pinks, grays, and browns, with no attempt to use light or shade to create a third dimension.

The 'mermaid' became Ralph Cahoon's hallmark in the 1960s. His imagination and creativity using this motif knew no bounds, using mermaids to play golf, fish, knit, pose for photographs, or hide in trees. The New England coastline or lighthouses were favorite backdrops, as were hot air balloons.

Martha's themes included still lifes, nature studies, scenes including mythological figures, and pastoral scenes reflecting the different seasons.

Ralph Cahoon died in 1982.

Michael David Zellman, "300 Years of American Art"

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