Mary Rose O’Connell Travels to Cape Ann

By Caroline Browne on August 6, 2021

Written by Caroline Browne

Every year during the month of September, the Copley Society of Art awards the Charles Family Foundation Residency to one of its artist members. The residency offers the opportunity to embrace the artistic aesthetic on the North Shore, the abundance of painters, and the beautiful plein air locations of Rockport, Annisquam, Gloucester, and Essex. Moreover, it allows artists to explore new painting techniques, and meet the North Shore’s most recognized painters.

This year, Mary Rose O’Connell was chosen by a credentialed committee to be the artist-in-residence in Cape Ann. In this week’s blog we are delighted to feature Mary Rose and learn more about her career, artistic process, and plans for her residency.


Pictured: Mary Rose O’Connell painting en plein air

Mary Rose O’Connell started her art journey at a young age. There was a good art program available throughout her years in school, and she received encouragement from many of her teachers. Her parents made space for her to work, providing access to good materials and art classes. After high school, Mary Rose began a career in dental hygiene, planning for it to only be temporary, while she pursued further art training. Her dental hygiene career has spanned over forty years. The artist continued to read, visit museums, and eventually took workshops with other artists she admired. “Although I found great joy in creating art projects with my children, I looked forward to having more time to further my education in art.”

Pictured: Mary Rose O’Connell, Peaches and Cream, oil, 11×14”

While visiting New England galleries, Mary Rose was drawn to the paintings that she saw featuring modern masters of the Boston School. When her children became more independent, she began to study in the Boston School Tradition under the tutelage of Mary Minifie. She began her training with cast drawing and eventually advanced to portraiture. This discipline demands the highest standards of observation, drawing, and composition combined with the beautiful color and light of the Impressionists. In addition to studying with Mary, she also spent time with Boston School painters Paul Ingbretson and David Curtis. The composition workshops with Ingbretson and plein air training with Curtis were a great compliment to the years of studio work in north light. This level of training was essential to the work that Mary Rose is doing now. In addition to the Boston School Tradition, she has painted with many other fine artists throughout her career and artistic journey. Richard Schmid and his book, Alla Prima, have had a significant impact on Mary Rose’s work.

Pictured: Mary Rose O’Connell, Portrait of Sara, oil on linen, 14×11”

In her paintings, Mary Rose tries to represent her subject in a truthful way that keeps the viewer engaged. She hopes that they react to the emotion she felt when she created the composition. She tries to develop a strong design to attract and hold the attention of the viewer. There is often a story connected with each work that can be helpful to share.

Pictured: Mary Rose O’Connell, Metamorphic Rocks (Triptych), acrylic on panel, 12×27”

The Charles Family Foundation Residency will be Mary Rose’s first artist residency opportunity. When asked what aspects of the residency is she most excited about, the artist replied, “I look forward to the luxury of spending uninterrupted time on Cape Ann where I can experience and record my impression of the light and atmosphere during various times of the day.” She added that she is excited at the thought of discovering new places and capturing some of the residents in this very special place.

Pictured: Mary Rose O’Connell, Bass Rocks, oil on linen, 18×24”

Mary Rose plans to work primarily in oils, her favorite medium, during her residency. “As a juried member of both the Rockport Art Association and the North Shore Arts Association, I have a strong connection to Cape Ann. However, I am typically in the position of traveling back and forth from my home to my selected painting location. I often miss the best light of the day.”

Pictured: Mary Rose O’Connell, Pemaquid Point Rocks, oil, 22×28”

When posed the question, “Is there anything you hope people take away from your work?” the artist responded that she hopes to present a body of work that records what she experiences during her time on the North Shore. “I hope to share how I render the incredible beauty of Cape Ann as I see it.”

Mary Rose O’Connell will be completing her residency during the month of September 2021. Follow #CapeAnnResidency or @maryroseoconnellfineart on Instagram to keep up with the artist’s upcoming adventures in Cape Ann.

Thank you to the Charles Family Foundation and Kathy and Peter Coakley for making this opportunity possible for Co|So artists!