Rachel Ellis Kaufman
Rachel Ellis Kaufman


Birds and Branches

15.7" x 28.5"

Woodblock Print




Rachel Ellis Kaufman 1913-2001

Far Away Places is the name of a small group of essays written by the artist Rachel Ellis Kaufman describing the many parts of the world that she called home over her 87 years. In it she tells of her travels, her dreams, and she talks of her relationship with the many cities and countries where she lived or visited and where she made art throughout her life.


One location stood out: "My spiritual home is Cape Cod…" she wrote "I love the simplicity of the sand and the sea, salt meadows with the fresh water "cricks", the rolling hills sprinkled with "kettle-holes"…I feel at home in the unassuming small towns and villages….perhaps it is the very smallness and fragility of the Cape which enters the heart—invades the soul—to realize it's lying there so unprotected out at sea..." These thoughts and themes can be seen throughout the body of work created by Rachel Ellis Kaufman.


Rachel was descended from the Hoxies and Ellises, two of the oldest families in Sandwich. Although she was not born on the Cape, she spent summers there as a child, at her grandparents' homes, and considered Sandwich to be her true home. She returned again and again at different points in her life to visit and to live. She was an art major who studied at the Grand Central School of Art in New York, and also studied commercial art at the New York School of Applied Design. Later in her life, she studied with Wellfleet artist Xavier Gonzalez, with Elliot Orr in Chatham, and also with Seong Moy in Provincetown.


The paintings, drawings, watercolors, lithos, pastels, scratchboard prints and wood block prints of her years on the Cape are testament to her enduring fascination with a love of the land, the water, the life on Cape Cod. She was not afraid to experiment with a variety of mediums. Her skillful drawings captured not only the fragility of flowers, birds, dories, and sea life around her but formed the basis for provocative paintings and later, pastel landscapes drawn from her childhood memories.


Two of Rachel's boldly painted oils, "Dismal Swamp" and eerie moonlit "Torchlight Fishing" both have a strong narrative quality. Cattails loom in the foreground of Dismal Swamp and the locust trees reach ominously toward a darkened sky. The oil on paper study for Torchlight Fishing features a churning sea under voluminous clouds while the oil painting on canvas creates a more moody version of the scene. Inspired by watching sardine boats in Portugal, Rachel painted the oil on paper study in the 1940s, and four years later painted the larger painting. In each of these works, she has told a story that literally pulls the viewer right into the painting, aboard the boat, into the swamp. Here is a familiar Cape Cod swampy marsh, and a fishing fleet in the moonlight, just like the ones on the outer Cape, dramatic in their presentation.


Her collection of woodblock prints show her strong ability as a printmaker. They are lithe and spirited visions of flowers, plants, birds, a beached dory, even a wood nymph, printed on fragile hand made paper. Color and texture combine to create a lady slipper bursting into bloom, an ethereal woman in the woods, a branch of birds. Rachel uses the same fine hand with her drawings, lithos and scratchboard prints, depicting shells, owls in flight, bits of wood and sea weed washed up on the tide. Her eye is ever on the surroundings, examining and interpreting the beauty of each animal or plant in intricate detail.


In the last years of her life, Rachel lived with her daughter Heather Blume, a sculptor. Of her mother's work, Heather said, "The soul of the Cape really comes through, and her lifetime connection to the Cape and this land can be felt."


Susan G. Kurtzman, Truro Fine Art Studio June 7, 2010