Edwin Dickinson from the Permanent Collection

Edwin Dickinson is synonymous with the Provincetown Art Association and Museum.

Edwin Dickinson (1891-1978) was a founding member, officer, and life-long supporter of the Museum and its functions. Provincetown was beloved by the artist; it’s where he honed his craft, raised his family, suffered tragedy and loss, all while producing some of his most important work: the now-iconic still-lifes, landscapes, and interiors. He was one of the only artists to live here year-round in the early 1900s.

As the art world changed in the early 1900s, Dickinson was a pioneer, moving from more traditional work toward the abstract; this shift caused a major rift among artists in Provincetown, yet Dickinson was able to persuade his fellow colleagues of the advantages of these changes. This is reflective in the differing styles of painting he created throughout his career.

His legacy spans a century resulting in a significant body of work which reflects the differing styles created in response to the changing art world.

About the Acquisition

In 2007, two years after PAAM completed its major renovation project, Mary Ellen Abel curated the award winning Edwin Dickinson in Provincetown: 1912- 1937. Borrowing works from many major museum and private collections, this was the exhibition that changed the public perception of PAAM from a small grass roots art association to a competitive, essential and prominent museum within the American art world. The Boston Globe described the exhibition as “a transporting selection of works produced by Dickinson during the years he lived in that extraordinarily fertile outpost of modern American culture at the far end of Cape Cod.” One of the lenders to this exhibition was Daniel Dietrich II, an important collector from Philadelphia, PA. Dietrich made available a significant number of paintings and drawings and upon the close of the exhibition, he generously gifted Provincetown Harbor, Railroad Wharf in the Rain from 1928.

In 2015, Dan passed away and through a non-traditional process challenged three institutions – Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts, Philadelphia Museum of Art and Provincetown Art Association and Museum – to vie for 24 oil paintings by Dickinson. The result of this very in depth process was the gift of seven paintings to PAAM’s permanent collection. Joining several other works by Dickinson, the offerings have now doubled.

I am deeply grateful to Dan Dietrich and his executor, Frank Cooper. This gift not only strengthens our Dickinson holdings, but speaks to the credibility of this organization and our responsibility to carefully preserve the legacy of the oldest continuous art colony in America.

The permanent collection is an important measure of any museum’s value. At PAAM, the holdings of local and regional art are extensive and dynamic, comprising over 3,500 works by over 800 twentieth century and contemporary artists who have worked in Provincetown and on Cape Cod. Their styles were revolutionary and remain noteworthy in the history of American Art. The PAAM collection weaves together at least three major art movements—each a significant strand of American art history—and creates perspectives that uniquely position the Provincetown art colony as a pertinent fixture to the larger art world.

Embedded into PAAM’s mission, the collection is truly at the heart of our organization. A glance at the Permanent Collection catalogue shows how many hundreds of people have been moved to express their generosity through contributions that make up virtually the whole collection. Amassed over an entire century, PAAM’s collection has been donated by people who really cared that the region’s art remains here. Our sincere thanks go out to all the donors who have continued to build and strengthen our important collection.