While this week’s cover by Claus Hoie brings back sweet memories of the artist who passed away several years ago, he’s still very much part of our East End community. Just ask Judith Sneddon, Director of the Helen and Claus Hoie Charitable Foundation. She is in charge of donating the couple’s paintings to various non-profit venues, some local and some not. Because of this, we can see how Hoie’s legacy reaches far beyond our immediate environs.
We can also see Hoie’s watercolors right in the middle of the Hamptons. They’re permanently installed at Amagansett’s Marine Museum. The work is taken from his well-received 1994 book, The Log of the Whaler Helena, and includes his written text, which accompanies the images. Such a book appeals to both children and adults alike, documenting, in log form, a whaling ship’s journey. Not only is this endeavor a piece of art but also a celebration of whaling that’s certainly appropriate for our surroundings (particularly Sag Harbor).
The subject matter is fitting as well when we consider that Hoie emigrated from Norway to America at the age of 12, keeping his connection with the sea throughout his life. During the Depression, he joined the Merchant Marines. During World War II, he trained with the Mountain Ski Infantry as part of the Norwegian-American Battalion.
Besides the sea, Hoie’s subjects also include legends and myths, perhaps recalling Norway’s penchant for folktales and rites. For example, images of capturing whales in Hoie’s book evoke rituals; even the cover image, “Skating on Town Pond,” is a local tradition and ceremony welcoming the winter.
Even so, there are other images suggesting Hoie had diverse interests and passions.
First, there are his attractions to nature and the earth, which make sense since he and his wife, Helen, were intensely connected to their home and particularly the trees. One watercolor, “Growth of the Soil,” brings this message home with deep tree roots pervading the space. Other works like “ Nightfall” and “ Xylocopa Virginica” feature a single insect.
Second, images of small towns/neighborhoods, including “ Martha’s Vineyard” and “Mulford Farm,” are not only charming but familiar as well. Earth colors of brown and gold convey a natural ambience, too. Finally, there are figurative watercolors, where fantasy-like forms show a bird-woman (“Bird of Prey”), circus performers (“Morning Rehearsal”) or a Flemenco dancer “Afternoon in Seville”).
No matter what the subject, however, Hoie’s style can be described as gracious and charming. This may have something to do with the medium of watercolor, but oddly enough, the words can also describe Hoie himself. For those who knew him well, he is still sorely missed for his generous spirit, bond with people and sheer joy in his environment. Or, simply put, his love of life.
Through the generosity of a benefactor and the Helen & Claus Hoie Charitable Foundation, the East Hampton Historical Society has produced two beautiful holiday cards featuring memorable paintings by Hoie of iconic East Hampton scenes—one of Town Pond and one of Mulford Farm. Proceeds benefit the education committee of the East Hampton Historical Society. They cost $25 for a box of 12 cards, six of each design. Contact the East Hampton Historical Society for information at 631-324-6850 or easthamptonhistorical.org.