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Nantucket Historical Association Acquires Elizabeth Rebecca Coffin Painting

The Nantucket Historical Association (NHA) is pleased to announce the acquisition of the painting At Eventide (1890) by Elizabeth Rebecca Coffin thanks to a generous gift from Carolyn Coffin Marlowe, in memory of her parents, William W. and Alma Killen Coffin.


“We are thrilled to add a significant work by Nantucket’s most notable female artist from the turn of the twentieth century to our permanent collection. Over the last year, the NHA has acquired five works by Elizabeth Coffin to complement the seven already in our collection.  This particular painting is a shining example of her best artistic ability. The NHA is excited to be the home for these works by Coffin, and we look forward to studying them and displaying them for the community and visitors alike in future exhibitions,” says Niles Parker, Gosnell Executive Director.   “We are very grateful for this generous gift to our growing collections.”


Elizabeth Rebecca Coffin (1850–1930) was an educator, philanthropist, and artist. Born in Brooklyn, where she lived most of her life, she studied at Vassar College, the Academy of Fine Arts in the Hague, the Art Students League in New York, and the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts. Among her instructors were Johan Philip Koelman, William Merritt Chase, and Thomas Eakins. Her father was from Nantucket and a descendant of the early English settlers. She began summering on the island in the early 1880s, eventually buying a house in which she later retired. Her signal achievement for Nantucket was the revival and transformation of the Coffin School, which she helped guide for more than two decades. 


Coffin painted At Eventide while summering on Nantucket, and it is one of her most appealing images. It captures two boys beside a dory at the water’s edge, holding a basket of shellfish.  The painting stands out due to Coffin’s ability to capture the effects of natural light within landscape. The influence of Coffin’s teacher and friend Thomas Eakins, who emphasized the importance of light, is apparent in this work. The painting is believed to be the same one Coffin exhibited at the National Academy of Design in 1891.  


The painting will go on view this spring in the Williams Forsyth Gallery at the Whaling Museum.


To learn more and explore the NHA’s collection, please visit   


About the Nantucket Historical Association  
The Nantucket Historical Association’s mission is to preserve and interpret the history of Nantucket through its programs, collections, and properties, in order to promote the island’s significance and foster an appreciation of it among all audiences.