Stephen Etnier signature image

Excerpted from the 1998
Journeys Over Water exhibition catalog
by Daniel. E. O'Leary, curator
courtesy of Portland Museum of Art

September 11, 1903: born in York, Pennsylvania, first child of Carey E. Etnier and Susan Smith Etnier.

Summer 1904: visits Maine for his first time with his parents, who later purchase a summer home on Ash Cove in South Harpswell.

1906: sister Virginia is born.

Summer 1911: charters small sailboat and teaches himself to tack back and forth in Ash Cove.

1913 – 1914: starts trying unsuccessfully to write verse to express his reactions to nature.

1914: father purchases a country estate south of York, Pennsylvania, which he names Wyndham. As they are moving into the home, Stephen sees a sunset by Frederic Church hanging over a mantelpiece in the main hall. The painting belongs to the previous owners of the estate and is moved that day. He always remembers it.

1915: sails on the steamship Great Northern through the Panama Canal to California to attend the two World's Fairs in San Diego and San Francisco. During this voyage, he sees the tropics for the first time.

1915: leaves home to attend Haverford School in Haverford, Pennsylvania, on the outskirts of Philadelphia.

Fall 1915: assisted by his height and driving experience at Wyndham, Stephen presents himself as a sixteen-year-old and obtains his driver's license at age twelve, only to have his father revoke it when he finds out what Stephen has done.

1916: pays $15 to take his first plane ride in York, Pennsylvania.

1918: takes a family train trip to California (Yosemite Valley, Monterey Peninsula, San Francisco), then to Oregon, Washington, and the Canadian Northwest.

1918 – 1920: while at Hill School in Pottstown, Pennsylvania, he begins copying western paintings in pen and ink; some are selected for magazine covers for the Hill Record.

1919: Stephen's father presents him with his first car - a handed-down 1917 Packard roadster.

1920 – 1922: attends the Roxbury Tutoring School in Cheshire, Connecticut, where he also draws and contributes prose and sketches to the school magazine.

1920: reads Somerset Maugham's The Moon and Sixpence, a romanticized biography of Paul Gauguin, while waiting for the Portland Steamer to take him to Harpswell.

1921: family sets sail on the Celtic for a trip to Europe, where they visit England, Scotland, France, and Switzerland. Stephen later says that he believes he formed his romanticized view of taverns during this trip through England.

February 1922: travels to South America for the first time with his mother and sister on the S.S. Van Dyke. Visits Rio de Janeiro, Santos, Sao Paulo, Bahia, Pernambuco, and Buenos Aires. Returns April 1922 on the Aquitania to New York.

Summer 1922: receives the 1914 31-foot I-class sloop Whisper as a gift from his mother.

Fall 1922: matriculates into Yale, Class of 1926, but transfers to the Yale Art School in December.

February 1923: runs away to Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, by sail on the S.S. American Legion, inspired by The Moon and Sixpence. Returns as assistant purser on the S.S. Van Dyck as pay for his passage.

Fall 1923: re-enters Yale, as Class of 1927, but is dismissed due to poor grades.

February – May 1924: works as a member of a survey team for Georgia Power Co. in Tugalo, Georgia. Under the influence of F. Scott Fitzgerald's work, he begins writing a novel, Le Mauvais Quart d'Heure.

Summer 1924: attends Boothbay Art School, where he studies under an artist by the name of Snell.

Fall 1924: enters Haverford College.

February 1925: transfers to the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, and studies there for four years.

1925: spends the summer in Gloucester, Massachusetts, studying with the broken-colorist Henry Breckenridge, an instructor at the Pennsylvania Academy.

June 6, 1926: marries Mathilde Gray of Greenwich, Connecticut, a classmate of his sister's from Oldfields School in Glencoe, Maryland.

July 6, 1927: daughter Suzanne Mathilde is born.

Fall 1928 – 1929: obtains a private apprenticeship with Rockwell Kent in Au Sable Forks, New York.

Summer 1929: obtains another private apprenticeship with the artist John Carroll in New York City.

July 17, 1929: daughter Penelope Royall is born.

January 1931: has his first solo exhibition (for which he pays) at the Dudensing Galleries in New York. (His second exhibition at the gallery was held in November 1931.)

March 1932: begins showing at Milch Galleries in New York and stays with them for thirty-five years.

June 3, 1933: marries second wife, Elizabeth Morgan Jay, of Westbury, New York.

Summer 1933: purchases the 70-foot schooner Morgana.

Summer 1933: with Elizabeth, he sails on the Morgana from Maine to Charleston, South Carolina, and then attempts to travel on to Bermuda. When a storm damages their yacht, they remain in Georgetown, South Carolina, for the winter.

Summer 1934: travels to Nova Scotia.

September 1934: buys the house at Gilbert Head on Long Island, Georgetown, at the mouth of the Kennebec River off Popham Beach, Phippsburg, Maine.

1934 – 1935: lives on the sailboat Morgana while renovating house on Gilbert Head.

April 1936: sells his first painting to a museum - The Metropolitan Museum of Art.

September 8, 1936: daughter Stephanie Jay is born.

Winter 1936: travels to Haiti to paint.

1937: receives a commission for a post office mural in Everett, Massachusetts.

January 1938: Magazine of Art article "Stephen Etnier."

1937: Elizabeth Etnier's book On Gilbert Head: Maine Days is published by Little, Brown and Co. in Boston. Stephen paints the design for the book jacket.

May 1938: purchases the 52-foot cutter Hersilia in Warren, Rhode Island. In September, the Hersilia suffers damage at Gilbert Head during a hurricane.

Winter 1938: travels to Nassau.

May 1939: Esquire article "Stephen Etnier: Bad Boy Artist."

April 1940: first solo flight at Small Point Beach, Maine, in 65-h.p. Aeronca.

May 1, 1940: daughter Elizabeth Victoria is born; he receives his pilot's license the same day.

1942 – 1944: although past draft age, he actively seeks and is commissioned to serve in the U.S. Navy during World War II.

May 1942: commissioned as Lieutenant in the United States Navy Reserves, he proceeds to Sturgeon Bay, Wisconsin, where he is appointed commanding officer of the U.S.S. Mizpah with convoy escort duty.

1944: is reassigned to a school ship, the U.S.S. Tourmaline, a schooner in Boston, and later is transferred to San Francisco, as a prospective navigating officer aboard the U.S.S. General Omar Bradley.

1944 – 1945: attends evening classes at the San Francisco Art School. Applies for and receives a discharge from the Navy.

1945: moves to Los Angeles and sets up a studio in, and subsequently holds an exhibition at, the Stendahl Gallery. Meets his future wife, Jane Pearce, at the studio.

May 1945: is the featured artist in an exhibition at the Santa Barbara Museum of Art.

January 1946: Art News article "Etnier: Remoter Realism."

1946: purchases Cessna airplane.

Winter 1946: resides in New Orleans.

1947: purchases Seabee amphibian aircraft.

1947: tells a reporter from the Gazette and Daily in York, Pennsylvania, that he has practically stopped painting landscapes to concentrate on figures.

July 1947: his painting The Passing Tow is featured in Life magazine.

1948: travels to the Isle of Pines, Cuba.

1948: purchases nine acres on Basin Point Road in South Harpswell from Emily Moody and starts building a modern home and studio, designed by Portland architect James Saunders.

September 8, 1948: marries Jane Walden Pearce, who dies tragically the following year.

1949: South Harpswell home is completed and named "Old Cove."

1950: is reported as striking out in new artistic directions as he begins painting interior scenes.

April 5, 1950: marries Samuella Rose (Brownie) and honeymoons in Bermuda.

1950: is named an associate of the National Academy of Design.

1951: exhibition of his tropical paintings is held at the Bowdoin College Museum of Art.

Winter 1951: travels to Jamaica and the Virgin Islands.

1952: takes a painting trip to Barbados and Grenada.

1953: is elected academician by National Academy of Design.

1953: included in 18th Annual Mid-Year Show at Butler Art Institute, Youngstown, Ohio.

August 1953: Etnier retrospective opens at the William A. Farnsworth Library and Art Museum in Rockland, Maine.

August 26, 1953: son John Stephen is born.

1955: receives Saltus Medal from National Academy of Design.

August 29, 1955: son David Morrison is born.

June 1956: American Artist article "Stephen Etnier: Painter of a Gay, Sunny World."

Summer 1956: exhibition "Recent Paintings by Stephen Etnier" at Centennial Hall, Harpswell, Maine.

January 1957: travels to Nassau by plane.

February 1958: travels on the steamship Gulio Caesar to Mallorca.

October 1959: purchases the Jonda, a 40-foot Pacemaker.

February 1960: returns to Nassau.

August 1960: cruises to St. Andrews, New Brunswick.

February 1961: travels to Mexico City and Mazatlan.

March 1961: travels on to Los Angeles and San Francisco.

November 1961: purchases the Timberfish, a 52-foot Huckins, and embarks upon an inspection cruise to Florida; exhibition at the Bates College Museum of Art opens.

January 1962: lives aboard the Timberfish while visiting Pompano Beach and Sands Marina area.

February 1964: receives Samuel F. B. Morse gold medal from National Academy of Design.

1964: the exhibition "Etnier: From Private Collections of Yorkers" in held at York Junior College, York, Pennsylvania.

1965: solo exhibition is held at the Bristol Art Museum at Linden Place, Bristol, Rhode Island.

Summer 1966: exhibition at Harpswell Garden Club, Harpswell, Maine.

Summer 1966: "Oil paintings by Stephen Etnier" at Patten Free Library, Bath, Maine.

April 1968: exhibition at Treat Gallery, Bates College, Lewiston, Maine.

1969: begins exhibiting with Midtown Gallery in New York, and keeps that arrangement until 1980.

1969: receives honorary doctorates of fine arts from Bates College and Bowdoin College.

November 1969: exhibits at The Collector's Gallery, York, Pennsylvania.

1971: donates the Timberfish to Florida Atlantic University.

June 1972: American Artist article "Stephen Etnier: A Long Voyage Home."

1976: travels briefly to Hawaii for a family emergency, but the Hawaiian tropics inspire future tropical paintings.

1981: exhibition is held at PS Galleries in Dallas, Texas.

1983: divorced from fourth wife, Brownie, after thirty-three years of marriage.

1983: second exhibition is held at PS Galleries in Dallas, Texas.

1983: marries his fifth wife, Marcia Hall; they divorce several months later.

October 1984: sister Virginia Chillingsworth dies at her home in Harpswell, Maine.

November 7, 1984: Stephen dies at his home in South Harpswell, comforted by his two sons, John and David.

This chronology was compiled from journals, sailing logs, publicity clippings, and exhibition records maintained by Stephen Etnier, an unpublished biography written by Jean Cole in collaboration with the artist, and family recollections.