I discovered years ago that the artist Raoul Middleman and I had three places in common — Baltimore, of course, but also Brittany, from where my French in-laws immigrated, and Wareham, on the Buzzards Bay side of Cape Cod. Middleman produced many landscapes in oils, watercolors and pastels in Brittany. He also spent summers in Wareham, Mass., where my uncle and aunt, Gene and Elizabeth Voci, had a summer cottage. I spent many happy days there with family as I was growing up.

A new exhibition of Middleman’s work features his Wareham and Buzzards Bay paintings. It’s called “A Painter’s Paradise” and opens April 22 at the Raoul Middleman Studio Museum, 943 N. Calvert Street Baltimore. The paintings in this exhibition depict scenes from Buzzards Bay on the southeast side of Cape Cod. Known for its windy sea breezes and pink granite dotted shoreline, the bay and its dramatic skies served as a profound inspiration to Raoul Middleman’s paintings for five decades. Middleman first visited the bay in 1971, having returned to the states from Paris with his future wife, Ruth Channing, whose family had spent summers in the area for generations. Middleman’s teaching career allowed him and his growing family to spend much of the summer at the beach each year. The boys would swim, fish and sail while Middleman would spend each day in one of his favorite spots in the rocks overlooking the bay. As with all his art, Middleman did not constantly seek new motifs, but rather would fervently explore the same subjects again and again, while the light, weather and his own moods constantly shifted. The early paintings tended to be light and delicate, often featuring family at play or leisure on the beach. Over time, the paintings grew darker and the color more saturated. The presence of people didn’t always vanish, but they became smaller and more overwhelmed by towering skies and stormy seas. While most people would enthusiastically greet a sunny day with blue skies, Middleman found those conditions to be flat and stagnant. He longed for the challenge and thrill of painting the quickly changing light reflected off the swirl of crashing waves. With its location at the edge of the sea, Buzzards Bay provided the opportunity he sought.

Hours: Saturdays from 1:00 p.m. to 4:00 p.m. or by appointment.
Contact Ben Middleman ben@benmiddleman.com / 443-990-1290

One of my columns about Raoul: Drawing and painting to the end, Middleman leaves an indelible mark on Baltimore and the art world

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