Henry Newell Cady (1849-1935)

An artist at the turn of the century from the small coastal town of Warren, Rhode Island, Henry Cady was best known for his seascapes of the New England coastline with a sensitive touch for capturing the effects of sky and sunlight conditions as they affected the sea and rocky shoreline in ever-changing rhythms. As a self-taught painter, Cady exhibited amazing ability at a young age. One of his paintings, dated 1869 when he was twenty, of seacoast waves crashing on the rocky New England shore, hangs in the John Hay Library of Brown University.

 

Cady was born on July 8, 1849, near the waters of Narragansett Bay. His leisure was spent in the quaint harbor of Warren where old whalers and merchantmen landed. Here he learned to know and love the sea. The original Cady family settled near Boston during the middle 1600's. His father was an educator and principal of schools in the little town of Warren.

 

After graduating from Brown University in 1869, Cady tutored students while developing his skill as a painter. In 1872 on Christmas Day he married Anne Cole, who gave him two sons and a daughter. Apparently unable to support the demands of a growing family, Cady and his young family moved to New Jersey where he made a more secure livelihood as a photo-engraver for thirteen years. In 1895 when advancing photography techniques lessened the need for photo-engraving, he returned to Warren at the age of 46, spending the rest of his life working at what he loved best - painting the sea.

 

Cady illustrated for many magazines and books, worked as an architect for several years, and with his wife co-authored books telling of his boyhood adventures and of early American history. He also loved good music and wrote a number of piano compositions. He was an organist for three local churches. In later years, although losing his hearing, he continued to play and compose. His last composition was written in 1926 when he as completely deaf. Cady died on May 15, 1935, at the age of 86 in the town in which he had been born, painting until a few years before his death.

 

His works were exhibited at the Chicago World's Fair in 1893, the St. Louis Exposition in 1904, and the Exposition of American Artists in Springfield, Massachusetts.

 

According to his obituaries, Cady was well regarded during his lifetime. He was a quiet, unassuming person who left few records of him self, preferring to let his paintings speak for him. The strong emotional content of Cady's art evinces a mystical attachment to the New England coastal environment. To viewers of the present day, his paintings evoke similar responses - a love for the sea, a fascination with light on fluid surfaces, and an identification with nature for a sense of well-being. Surely Cady revealed himself through his paintings, and his paintings reveal him to us.

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