Work of the Week — “St. Augustine Beach” by Henry Curtis Ahl

Monday, March 6, 2017

By Matt Gorga

St. Augustine BeachIt’s March. For students like myself, this means one thing: spring break. Warmer weather is on the horizon (not that we have had much of a winter this year…). This painting by Henry Curtis Ahl made me all the more eager to pack up the Subaru and my dogs (yes… so stereotypically Asheville…) and road trip to the beach!

I love this painting. It truly captures the coastal Florida that I know and love: the intracoastal waterways, the marshland, the beaches and plant covered sand dunes, the palm trees… it’s all there. You can just make out the St. Augustine Lighthouse in the distance. This lighthouse was constructed in the late 1800s, and is still an active lighthouse today, as well as a museum and tourist attraction.

st aug lighthouse pic

Henry Curtis Ahl was born in Springfield, MA in 1904. His parents were both artists and encouraged their son to do the same. He became an accomplished painter, illustrator and writer. His work frequently depicted pseudo-impressionistic landscapes and seascapes like his work above, shying away from his father’s tendency towards religious painting and portraiture.

I have a strong personal connection to St. Augustine, FL. My mother grew up there, and my 96-year-old grandmother, Mimi, as well as a good portion of my extended family still live in the area. Growing up, I would spend many spring breaks and most summers down in St. Aug fishing, hanging at the beach, and working for my Uncle at the St Aug Beach Marine Supply & Oil, Co., right off Riberia Street.

I think we all develop some form of connection with the beach, just like many of us develop connections to the mountains here in Asheville. There is something spiritual and humbling about both of them. It’s no wonder that many people do their deepest soul searching in the mountains or by the sea.

It’s amazing how artwork can individually affect the viewer in so many different ways. The flow of memories and excitement for spring break that this painting brings up for me is part of the reason I love art. If you haven’t visited the Museum to enjoy such experiences, I would encourage you to do so.

…and if you haven’t visited St Augustine, I would encourage that as well. Want some fresh shrimp or fish right off the boat? Head over to the Marine Supply & Oil, Co. Tell Charlie that Matt sent you.

Artwork Above (top): Henry Curtis Ahl, St. Augustine Beach, c. 1935 , oil painting, 25 x 30.12 inches. Gift of Dr. A. Everette James, Jr., Permanent Collection. 1986.2.1.21.

Picture Above (middle): photograph of the St. Augustine Lighthouse

Picture above (bottom): photograph of myself surf fishing one morning in 2012 on St. Augustine beach.