Ruth Haviland Sutton Biography

Ruth Haviland Sutton






Ruth Haviland Sutton was born in Springfield, Massachusetts on September 10, 1898. She received her artistic training at the Pennsylvania Museum and School of the Arts in Philadelphia in 1924-25 and at the Grand Central School of Art in New York City 1926-28, Jerry Farnsworth in Florida and others. She was commissioned in 1933 by the Works Progress Administration to paint two large murals at the Museum of Natural History in Springfield, Massachusetts. She attended the Art Students League in New York City btween 1934 and 35, where she studied drawing and anatomy with George Bridgman and sculpture with Mahonri Young.

A student of printmaker George C. Miller in New York in the mid 1930s, along with her friend Elizabeth Saltonstall, Sutton used her lithographic skills to create her prints of familiar Nantucket scenes, including the Easy Street Basin, the wharves, Stone Alley, Main Street, and other island subjects. She had begun travelling to Nantucket Island in the 1920s to study with Frank S. Chase, making it her permanent residence in 1936, and it was there that she developed a series of printed postcards called “Pencil Print Notes,” along with her frequently reproduced works including a map of Nantucket, and a print of famous island attractions.


Sutton was a founding member of The Boston Printmakers in 1947, with her friend Elizabeth Saltonstall, and an active member of the Springfield Artists Guild and the Springfield Art League.   Sutton, Saltonstall, John Taylor Arms, Stow Wengenroth, Letterio Calapai, Grace Albee, Calvin Burnett, Samuel Chamberlain, Alan Rohan Crite, Arthur Heintzelman and two professors from the Massachusetts College of Art and the School of the Museum of Fine Arts, Otis Philbrick and Ture Béngtz were among the "founding member" group who joined, exhibited and established The Boston Printmakers .   


In addition to her print work, Sutton was an accomplished oil painter, creating charming landscapes and townscapes under the direction of Chase. Perhaps her finest work, however, came in a series of oil and pastel portraits of well-known Nantucket characters. Here, the delicate precision of her eye, well trained through her meticulous plein air sketchwork for her prints, shifts its attention to the human face, which she captures in swift, broad strokes with finely built-up layers of tone—evident in the radiant, expressive eyes of her sitters.

One of its most active artists, Sutton was also an important promoter of the Nantucket Art Colony, supporting the Sidewalk Art Show after its establishment in 1930, serving as a charter member of the Artists Association of Nantucket and on its first executive committee, and exhibiting at the Kenneth Taylor Galleries and later the Lobster Pot Gallery on Old South Wharf. In 1945, she purchased four waterfront properties from Florence Lang’s estate, refurbished them, and continued to rent them to artists at affordable rates. In 1950, she bought and remodeled the Candle House Studio into a home and studio for herself, providing an unobstructed view of the harbor directly from her living room.

Ruth Haviland Sutton died on November 23, 1960 in Nantucket, Massachusetts.