Nancy Whorf (1930-2009) was an inventive painter, best known for her vibrant, varied scenes of the fishing village where she lived all her life on Cape Cod. She painted the town ands its memorable characters as a visual memoirist – rather than in any effort to recreate it accurately. Instead, she experimented boldly with color and recreated scenes from her memory as a child and young woman – paintings filled with festivals and gatherings, narrow lanes, waterscapes, sunsets, snowy streets and beautiful hidden gardens she knew as a child and young woman.
Nancy used color to engage the viewer, combined with strong pictorial language and masterful lines. Whorf said of her own paintings, “I want to simplify, to suggest. That’s what I like about the palette knife. It’s easier to suggest.” With her knife strokes, bold coloration, and vivid imagery she suggests the whole of her world.
Nancy was not only an esteemed painter and memorable character but the scion of the prestigious Whorf family that included her famed artist father, John Whorf. She began her formal art study at the age of 14 decorating furniture as a folk artist for Peter Hunt. For nearly twenty years, painted furniture was Nancy’s medium, and she owned a shop in Wellfleet, MA, that sold her painted furniture. Yet, early on, she anticipated the deep love of painting she would reveal in her later years, and spent a year at the Boston Museum School of the Museum of Fine Arts, where she studied with Karl Zerbe. She was also influenced greatly by her own father and by the renowned Vollian Rann, both of whom were long-time students of Charles Hawthorn.
From the late 80′s until her death in 2009, Nancy focused exclusively on her painting. Her work has been exhibited extensively throughout the country and she received numerous commissions from major organizations and private individuals such as Lincoln Park Zoological Society, Tiffany’s in Chicago, Abby Rockefeller, and others. While Nancy’s work may speak of local themes and scenes, its vision and appeal go well beyond the geographical region in which it is best known. Shortly before Nancy’s death she was granted an honor by the Selectmen of Provincetown, MA – one of the most notable artist communities in the world and given to only a few artists – when she was named as “Nancy Whorf of Provincetown.” By this, she joined the ranks of some of the greats, such as “Van Gogh of Arles.”