24 Race Road

24 Race Road, Provincetown (1977), by Josephine Del Deo. Massachusetts Historical Commission Inventory, 1973-1977: Provincetown's West End. Courtesy of the Provincetown Public Library. 
"Portuguese Fisherman," by Mary Cecil Allen (ND). Provincetown Art Association and Museum.As the days of Charles Heinz neared an end at No. 17 in the early ’50s, the days of Mary Cecil Allen (1893-1962) in Provincetown were just beginning. Like Heinz, Allen enjoyed a larger reputation in her own time than history has bestowed. And like Heinz, she’s very much worth rediscovering. Born in Melbourne, Australia, Allen attended the Art School of the National Gallery of Victoria (now the Victorian College of the Arts) and the Slade School of Fine Art in London. Beginning in 1922, she studied with Max Meldrum, one of the leading Australian artists of the early 20th century. Taken under the wing of a visiting American named Florence Gillies in 1926, Allen traveled through Europe and then, because she was such an engaging lecturer on art, found herself in demand in the United States, where — the Australian Dictionary of Biography notes — she was known as Cecil Allen.

Portrait of Mary Cecil Allen (1920s). National Library of Australia, nla.pic-an22452836.W. W. Norton published two of her books, The Mirror of the Passing World in 1928 and Painters of the Modern Mind in 1929. At the Nicholas Roerich Museum, in 1931, she organized what was described as the first New York exhibition of the work of Australian artists. Allen came to Provincetown in 1950 and spent much of the rest of her life here. She was a trustee of the Provincetown Art Association and played an active role in the organization, Josephine Del Deo recounted. She converted this house into a studio in the mid-1950s. It was here that she was discovered on a Sunday morning in April 1962 by a friend who had arrived to take her to services at St. Mary of the Harbor, to which Allen belonged. “She was found sitting in a lounge chair with the lights on, radio playing and window shades lowered,” The Provincetown Advocate reported; dead at 68.

Though Allen had spent only the last 12 years on the Cape, she was buried in Provincetown at her sister’s request. This Melbourne native found her home 10,000 miles away. • MapAssessor’s Online Database ¶ Posted 2013-08-10

8 thoughts on “24 Race Road

  1. I remember attending Mary Cecil Allen’s tea parties at her home/studio with my parents. She was a fascinating high-energy lady with a fascinating British accent. The only other person with a similar accent (in the estimation of a young boy) was Ada Hensche, who introduced Mary Cecil to my parents. On Mary Cecil’s tombstone, her parents were listed: Lady Allen and Sir Harry Allen of Melbourne.

    She was very proud of her cat, who made use of the toilet, and she shared this feat with all who visited.

    After she passed on, many of her paintings were given to St. Mary of the Harbor for their annual auction. At the first auction, there were no to takers for the work until local collector, Hudson Walker, stepped in and bought all for fear that they would end up at the dump! Hudson was an amazing person and a great advocate of the arts and artists.

    I have one of those pieces that he saved in my collection today. I have no idea what happened to the rest but I am positive that Hudson made sure they did not end up at the dump!

    • Thank you for telling this story. I come across Mary through one of her portraits that hangs proudly in the Bendigo [Victoria, Australia] Art Gallery. Her work entitled ‘Legend’ caught my eye. I was wondering if it was a self portrait. It’s hard to tell from this lone image of her from Wikipedia. I shall search some more. She lives on!

  2. Simply wonderful: a former Mailer Center fellow from Australia is doing a piece on Mary Cecil and I will connect you both. Simply too much good information not to be shared.

  3. Thanks for the great history about Mary Cecil Allen.

    It’s uncanny that the first place I owned in Ptown was right next door at No. 20 (Unit 4), and that she was from Melbourne, Australia, where I’ve spent the last 13 years.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s