Provincetown Art Guide with fine dining 2010 web edition header image with link to home page

 Remembering Nancy

Nancy Whorf, self portraitWell-known artist Nancy Whorf (1930–2009) was born into a family whose roots in Provincetown go back to the early 1700s. Her father was renowned watercolorist John Whorf. Nancy began her formal art study at the age of 14, eventually decorating furniture for folk artist Peter Hunt. At the age of 56, she decided to devote herself full-time to her painting. Her work since that time was extraordinary; her remarkable talent matched only by her exuberance for life, Provincetown, her animals and her garden. The following excerpts are from her daughter Julia’s memoir, Feast or Famine—Growing Up Bohemian in Provincetown. Written in part to help revive her mother’s failing memory at the end of her life, it recounts the rich and eccentric artistic heritage of one of Provincetown’s most celebrated artist families.

. . . All activities on 14 Howland Street came crashing through the kitchen door. Always inviting, never quiet, seldom still, the house was in itself alive. Dogs, cats, birds, fish, kids, and grown ups, all conspiring to bring about a bedlam that was home. . .

Nancy Whorf, Long Day at the Beach
Me, I did not fly in, I did not drive in, I arrived by birth canal and can honestly say that every day I lived in Provincetown revealed to me, with my mother’s keen eye and teaching, the most profound and beautiful wonders. She gave me my artist’s eye. "Oh ... an Ahhtists Eye," says mom snidely, "what does that mean anyway?" Nancy Whorf Kelly humbly refers to herself as a "painter" and not an artist. She always said that it sounded affected to call oneself an "artist."

We had two kerosene stoves in our house when we were growing up. One big elaborate black iron one sat in the living room . . . and the other, a smaller white enamel one, was in the kitchen. Mom got the really pretty one in the living room on a trade for painting blue roses on a shop front in town.

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TOP: Nancy Whorf, Self Portrait, oil on canvas
RIGHT: Nancy Whorf, Long Day at the Beach, oil on canvas