The Bethel Journals

Bethel, Maine History

November 18, 2009


Bethel, Maine

Text Box:

John Joseph Enneking

American Impressionist

1841 to 1916


John J. Enneking was born on October 4, 1841 in Minster, Ohio; he joined the Union Army in 1861 and after being injured returned to Cincinnati to recuperate; later he moved first to New York and then to Boston.  On October 14, 1864 he married Mary Eliot who " was the daughter of a wealthy merchant, John Eliot …who had moved from Corinna, Maine to Boston.

Mary encouraged, her new husband to devote himself to art* Dissatisfied with lessons in Boston, " he went directly to Nature to learn",  he sometimes painted up to 20 small paintings a day in order to raise money for studying in Europe.

Enneking found some of his most satisfying subject matter in the mountains, trout streams and sunsets of Newry, Sunday River and the White Mountains.  He could have visited the Bethel area as early as 1867-1872 and again he probably visited the area in 1877-78 after returning from Europe.  In the 1880’s the Ennekings established a summer residence in North Newry,

Paintings in this small exhibition reflect the artist1s matured, post-Europe style. He was it seems influenced by the French impressionists and painted with many of them -- but notably with landscape artist Charles-Francois Daubigny (1817-1878) and Adolph Monticelli (1824-1886); the latter’s influence is most noticeable in Enneking1s sunset paintings.

Enneking’s work after returning from Europe to Boston includes material directly connected to this area? A Summer Afternoon on the Androscoggin  ( Exhibited in Boston, 1878) ; Wight's Brook ( Exhibited at The Brockton Art Center, 1974-75); Trout Brook (private Connecticut collection); Saddle Back Mountain ( Exhibited at The Brockton Art Center, 1971-75) ; and, Chocorua Mountain ( private collection).

Enneking’s biography: John Joseph Enneking, American Impressionist Painter, by Patricia Jobe Pierce and Rolf H. Kristiansen notes that many artists came to Enneking's Hyde Park home to view his latest works;

“ Many favorite scenes included . . . . pictures of . . . Bar Harbor, Maine . .  quaint covered bridges in a New England setting.”

In her Sunday River Sketches, Martha Fifield Wilkins relates that the Sunday River covered bridge became known as Artist's Bridge after Enneking's numerous sketching visits to sites in the bridge's vicinity while a guest at the Locke boarding house. He also probably struck up an acquaintance with the Foster family whose beautiful hone overlooks the bridge.  Celdon Foster also had a home in Hyde Park where the artist lived.

Enneking’s paintings of New England scenes, many drawn from the area around Bethel, won invitations to exhibit and awards from exhibitions in Boston, New York, Paris, St. Louis, San Francisco, Philadelphia and World Fairs.

Finally, it is interesting from a historical point of view that both the artist, Enneking, and the collector in this case, J. Howell Crosby, shared a common, initial summer vacation residence at the Locke place in North Bethel.  This common factor of Bethel experience is fitting for the first modest Enneking exhibition at the Moses Mason Museum.  The Ennekings went on to later acquire a place in North Newry and the Crosby’s one in Sunday River.

 Howell Crosby (1868-1936) lived in Arlington, Mass., where he farmed, traded produce in the Boston Market and followed a political career which led him to spending many hours in Boston from 1900 to 1916.  By 1916 he had purchased five Enneking paintings. The prices ranged from $100 to $350—of these the one costing the most was a painting titled, Springtime at Jackson, NH.  It was a scene of blossoming apple trees— apparently one of the artist’s favorite scenes.

Donald G. Bennett August 14, 1979


Artist Bridge over Sunday River in Newry.  Built in 1872, the bridge became locally known as “Artist’s Bridge” because John Enneking was so frequently seen painting in the area.


During the years the Ennekings lived in North Newry, it is likely that in the painter’s travels he used a mountain road connecting Bear River valley with Sunday River.  This mountain road which was abandoned during the early automobile era joined the Sunday River road only a few hundred yards above the bridge.


Photo is dated 1931.  Source: Sunday River Sketches, compiled by Martha Fifield Wilkens, edited by Randall Bennett.

The Celdon Foster house, 1922,  near the covered bridge, same source as above.

An example of Enneking’s style of sunset painting for which he became well known.