Not much imagination is needed to picture 200 Bradford Street, built around 1850, as a barn or a stable. At the end of the 19th century, it was part of a complex of buildings serving H. & S. Cook & Company, a large shipping and fishing enterprise that had its own 1,000-foot-long wharf at what is now 481 Commercial Street.
An 1880 atlas shows a stable at the head of Cook Street (No. 200), a fish house immediately to the west, and a wagon house west of that. In 1895, Adelaide O. (Cook) Putnam; her husband, A. Louis Putnam; and Abigail R. Cook sold the property for $300 to Prince I. Freeman — one of the many Prince Freemans descended from Mercy (Prence) Freeman, herself descended from Gov. Thomas Prence of Plymouth Colony and William Brewster of the Mayflower — and Maj. John Freeman. According to A Book About the Artists, by Nancy W. Paine Smith, Freeman used the stable as a barn.
Its days as a landmark of the art colony began in 1918 when Harriet Adams Miller (1880-1960), the wife of the American Impressionist Richard E. Miller (1875-1943), purchased it from Freeman. Smith said the Millers had been drawn to the property by “the willows and the little hollow behind them; a fertile little hollow, a sheltered little hollow which defies the winter winds, and very early in the spring brightens the yard with pussy willows and green grass.”
Richard Miller’s studio was located in the smaller structure at No. 200A, to the east of the main house, which can still be glimpsed through the arched gateway on Bradford Street. Of this building, Smith wrote that it had been brought across the harbor by scow from Long Point. “The big pine timbers, now brown as a nut, are fastened together by wooden pins,” she wrote. She added that the walls had been heightened to accommodate the mural panels Miller painted for the Missouri State Capitol, including Assembling of the First Legislature. “For the historical subjects depicted, Provincetown young women acted as models,” she wrote, meaning there might be some familiar faces out there in Jefferson City.
We’re lucky to have a detailed description of the Miller property from the January 1937 issue of The American Home, which makes it sound idyllic. The article describes the residence as a former carriage house, which is not necessarily a contradiction of the earlier description of it as a barn. It also makes it sound as if the barn door or carriage door was originally on Bradford Street, which may explain what seems today like the odd proportioning of the south facade.
A hedge now shields it from passing traffic, picket gates open into the yard at either end of the house, and in the rear there are French windows opening onto a wee flagged terrace, a stretch of grassy turf, and a garden pool under the willow, with Mr. Miller’s atelier, where he spends many busy hours, close at hand. …
After closing up the wide doorway, which originally opened on the street, and clapboarding to match the rest of the exterior, windows were cut where necessary … an outside chimney was built against the center of the end opposite the ell … an entrance doorway arranged at its right and another directly across in the other end. The harness room ell became the kitchen, and the upper floor … was partitioned off to provide for bedrooms and bath.
… [I]t has been found desirable to add a small room at the rear in the angle between the ell and the main house to protect the rear entrance from the winds which sweep down across the dunes. The ell has also been extended to provide for a breakfast nook with a fireplace at the end, which is so delightfully inviting as to cause one to wish that every household might have a similar one to enjoy the year around.
A native of St. Louis, Miller studied at the College of Art at Washington University in St. Louis (now the Sam Fox School of Design and Visual Arts). He was awarded a scholarship to continue his studies in Paris at the Académie Julian (now ESAG Penninghen) and then spent time at the American art colony established in Giverny, around the home of — though not directly connected with — Claude Monet. The works of one Miller’s friends from Giverny, Frederick Carl Frieseke, bear a remarkable similarity to his.
In Paris, he met Harriet Adams of Rhode Island. They were married in London in 1907. Two years later, they had a daughter, Elsbeth.
Of all the artistic expatriates who settled in Provincetown as World War I consumed Europe, Miller “was the most coloristically impressionist in style, yet the most bitterly anti-modern in attitude,” Dorothy Gees Seckler wrote in Provincetown Painters, 1890s-1970s.
His success in Paris was apparently based on paintings of models posed as fashionable ladies of the boudoir, or other bourgeois surroundings that would allow for the play on sunlight on comely flesh, on ribbons and ornaments. Yet when Miller could set aside the contrived artificiality of this kind of marketable fare, he was capable of considerable depth and sensitivity. This is seen in his sympathetically affectionate portrait of young Edwin (Eddie) Reeves Euler, with the stuffed owl (which Eddie still owns) crowning the subtle composition.
Befitting an artist of his station, Miller was deeply involved both with the Provincetown Art Association and its social parallel, the Beachcombers. It was here that he provided the lightning rod — or the final straw, depending on how you look at it — for the bitter and pronounced division between the modern and conservative factions at the association, which reached a head in 1926, when the work of the two camps was hung together in the same room for the last time. Ross Moffett described the precipating incident in Art in Narrow Streets:
‘Hence the Pyramids,’ signed by a purported ‘Ad Wolgast,’ was a cubist-like canvas that hung in the corner of the gallery allotted to the moderns …. Soon it became noised about the art colony that ‘Wolgast’ was none other than Richard Miller. Not all members of the Association regarded this hoax with amusement. Some blamed Miller, some the Art Association in general, and some the two members of the jury who had been counted on to defend the interests of the moderns, but who had been fooled by a fake modern picture.
John Whorf was also in on the hoax and claimed credit for having come up with the name of Ad Wolgast; the “Michigan Wildcat” was a washed-up prize fighter. “I’ll bet none of the art colony around here ever heard of him,” Whorf said. “Ad Wolgast it is!” answered Miller exultantly. Beginning in 1927, summer exhibitions of the modern and conservative schools were hung separately.
In 1929, Elsbeth Miller died in her 20th year. Miller himself died in January 1943 while in St. Augustine, Fla. All three family members are buried in the Snow Cemetery in Truro. Miller’s pallbearers included Whorf and the writer John Dos Passos, and such prominent town artists as William Boogar, Oscar Gieberich, Philip Malicoat, and Bruce McKain; and leading civic figures like Ralph S. Carpenter, Dr. Frederick Hammett, and Carl Murchison. The next year, Mrs. Miller sold the property to Lilly K. Christensen of Brooklyn. At this time, the house and studio still occupied the same tax lot.
Christensen sold that and an adjacent parcel to the east (now No. 202) to Eugene J. and Jeannette B. Corrigan, of Narberth, Pa., northwest of Philadelphia. The summer tenants in 1956 were the author Daniel Yankelovich and his wife — presumably the same Daniel Yankelovich (b 1924) who would soon establish the marketing and research firm Yankelovich, Skelly & White. The summer tenant in 1957 was the artist Robert Motherwell (1915-1991).
The abstract artist Irving J. Marantz (1912-1972) and his wife, Evelyn M. (Hurwitz) Marantz (1911-1975), a teacher, bought the property from the Corrigans in 1958, renewing 200 Bradford’s role as an important art landmark in town. Marantz was graduated in 1933 from the Newark School of Fine and Industrial Art (it no longer exists); studied with George Grosz and Harry Sternberg at the Art Students League of New York, a crucible of Provincetown artists; and then studied in Hong Kong and Shanghai, until 1940. “I learned a great deal about Chinese art and became something of an authority on it,” he told Frank Crotty of The Worcester Sunday Telegram in 1959. The couple were married in 1938 and had two children: Mady and Michael.
Beginning in 1950, Marantz conducted the Provincetown School of Painting, though it was apparently not here, to judge from a 1959 advertisement in The Advocate showing it on Atkins Lane. (It had previously been at 516 Commercial Street.) “Art students, whether beginners or advanced, are presented with an understanding of technique and esthetics,” the ad said. “Emphasis is placed on experimentation, and assistance is given in the search for direction.” To Crotty, Marantz said:
One paints because one has greater empathy with shapes, colors and textures than with sounds, words or movement. … [A]ll the aspects and parts of his painting create a sense of oneness. The viewer obtains a feeling of exaltation, gratification, and a sense of participation with this oneness. It is as one enjoys the experience of seeing a bird in flight, or the movement of a fish in water, or existence itself.
Irving Marantz died in 1972. Evelyn survived him by three years. They are both buried in Town Cemetery under a monument that includes a sensuous stone sculpture that Mady Marantz, a psychologist practicing in New York City, told me in 2015 was the work of Conrad Malicoat (1936-2014). The property was sold in 1978 for $77,500 to the writer and poet Gabrielle “Gaby” Rilleau Ponek, of the Rilleau sandal-making family, and her husband, Stefan P. Ponek Jr., a radio announcer and producer. After they were divorced, she became the sole owner in 1981 and remains so today, both of the main house and studio parcels.