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Martha Cahoon

Martha Cahoon: Shore Scene with Sailor's and Mermaids<BR>Sold at Eldred's in 2005 for a world record $23,000

Shore Scene with Sailor's and Mermaids
Sold at Eldred's in 2005 for a world record $23,000

American

1905 - 1999

Marha Farham was born in 1905 in Roslindale MA. At the age of 10, she and her family relocated to the small fishing village of Chatham on Cape Cod.

Martha became a skilled apprentice in her father’s furniture business, where she excelled at applying folk art styled painted and stenciled decoration to furniture. In 1932, she married a local Chatham man and aspiring artist, Ralph Cahoon.  After their marriage, the Cahoons moved to Osterville, and later to Cotuit where they would start a successful business decorating and selling antique furniture.

In 1953 their careers took another twist when one of their customers, the wealthy New York socialite, art dealer, and future co-owner of the New York Mets, Joan Whitney Payson convinced them to frame some of their designs. Furthermore, Payson offered to show their works in her Long Island Gallery. Their foray from furniture decoration into “wall art” proved successful and both Cahoons went onto to produce numerous works over the ensuing decades.

While much of their earlier furniture decoration shared the same Pennsylvania Dutch inspired motifs, their easel paintings marked the first significant diversion in Ralph and Martha’s palettes and styles. While Martha continued to work in muted tones, Ralph experimented with brighter and more contrasting colors. More importantly, Ralph developed the subject matter and style that made his paintings must haves for any distinguished family that summered on the Cape.

While some of Martha’s paintings echoed  the whimsical feel of her husband’s, much of her work displayed more of a country sensibility. She often depicted farmyard scenes or children ice skating and flying kites, rather than top-less mermaids frolicking with sailors.

In later years Martha continued producing artwork, although she focused more on crayon and pencil drawings rather than works in oil.

The home she and Ralph shared in Cotuit is now open to the public as The Cahoon Museum of American Art.

Last updated: April 24, 2012

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