In the Studio with Mary Maguire


In the small, riverside town of Lyme, CT, painter Mary Maguire draws on historic works of art as she creates her whimsical portraits of ships, living creatures, houses, and more. “I was born in the wrong century,” she suggests when asked about her reasons for imitating the styles of the past. Many of Maguire’s paintings reflect the history of her native region, which was the epicenter of America’s trade and whaling industries. She says of her interest in nautical subjects, "I think growing up near the ocean in New England made me prone to love all things having to do with the sea."

Maguire studied at the Rhode Island School of Design to become an illustrator, but took a long detour before returning to her artistic roots, working in Manhattan for various Condé Nast and Hearst magazines.  When she moved to Lyme and established her studio, she found herself wanting a folk-style, 19th century nautical painting and realized “Oh—I could paint it myself.” In subsequent years her subjects have expanded, and now include Stubbs-style animal portraits and petite eye portraits modeled on brooch-sized miniatures.

Including Edward Gorey and Saul Steinberg, Maguire’s list of influences reflects her quirky approach to art, which is sometimes inspired by flea market finds from Chinese rice paper paintings and natural history prints to 19th century needlework and photography. Though drawn from the styles of bygone eras, her artwork feels fresh thanks to its playful reimagination of the past.

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