Frances H. McKay, American (1880 - 19??)

Francis McKay

Each of us holds a special memory from childhood. Sometimes it's an image from a movie, or perhaps a special children's book character; for me, it is a picture on a zigsaw puzzle. I speak of an image of a painting on a popular puzzel from the early 50's. I believe the puzzle company was called Tuco. My Mom, sister, and I spent many hours piecing that puzzle. I was also intrigued by the peaceful coastal scene, painted in the impressionist style. Its shaded street led to a misty seacoast. Many years later, I became an artist and I had to revisit this scene of my childhood. I soon discovered that there was very little written about the artist, F. H. Mckay. This article is a personal inquiry in hopes that someone might provide me with more information about this fine impressionist.

Unfortunately, there is little written about F. H. McKay. I was only able to accumulate a few descriptive lines regarding this painter. What little information that exists is from several online auction sites, art and genealogy forums. I have absolutely no confirmed documentation for the facts below, so consider this information as "hear say." From what I could gather, McKay's full name was Frances H McKay, a female artist born in 1880 (date of death unknown) in Rockport, Maine. She painted primarily coastal scenes (usually with trees and houses along a path leading to the ocean). Many of the paintings also had figures in them. The style is impressionist. Some limited information can be found from the Washington-based "Women In American Art" organization.

In regards to the McKay painting The House On Seacoast Lane, one description found was as follows:
"Seacoast Lane" by the well known female artist F. H. McKay, born 1880 (date of death unknown) Cute little framed print of an idyllic tree lined street with charming cottage style homes, one with a white picket fence. There is an older person strolling along with a walking stick and in the near distance is the sea. Pretty colors and sweet old fashioned charm! Measures 5 1/2" wide by 4 1/2" and the frame is 3/4" thick. Signed F. H. McKay

Here are several comments I found on various forums. I am reprinting it here in hopes that it may provide clues for future research. If there are copyright issues in reprinting this here, please contact me for its removal:

"The subjects are all very similar - coastal scenes. Some of the scenes are very reminiscent of Maine, while others could be from the English countryside or the south of France. On the back of one painting was information that the artist had spent time in both places. Often, the paintings have figures with dress that looks more European than American. In all cases, the dress is that of simple folk. With all the collecting I have done, the artist remains a mystery to me. I am still actually confused as to whether the F is for Frances or Francis and I have seen both. In one posting for an auction, it referenced that F.H. McKay's works were on display at the 1939 World's Fair in New York."

There are yet some comments not to sure of the gender of the artist:
"F. H. McKay worked in the first half of the 20th century in and around the New England area. His paintings are primarily of the quaint houses, farms, and towns typical of that area. His paintings can be found ranging in size from a small 8x10 on board to larger canvas pieces. Also, prints of his oil paintings were sometimes made. He sold quite frequently to tourists visiting the area who wanted to take home a reminder of their vacation. Prices for his paintings range from the low hundreds up to 2 or 3 thousand for a large oil on canvas in an original frame. His pieces turn up now and again at some of the established east coast auction houses and a good deal can be found on eBay from time to time. Sadly, not much biographical information has turned up on him yet."

Puzzled Beginnings
As mentioned earlier, my first encounter with F. H. McKay was through one of my childhood possessions, a jigsaw puzzle manufactured by Tuco in the early 50s. This raises some interesting questions, as to how this painting became an important part of our popular culture through the Tuco company. I am very curious as to what possible connections this company may have with the artist or the artist's family. Perhaps it was chosen only because of its subject matter. After all, impressionist paintings were popular as reproduction or assembly-line paintings, probably due to their pleasant imagery and soothing color schemes. They make excellent color accessories for interiors of homes and seldom distract from color schemes or interior themes.

Without uncovering concrete evidence, I can only speculate the possibilities Undoubtedly, F.H. McKay will continue to fulfill my nostagia of those idealized villages, with their picket fences, seacoast cottages, shady streets that end near the sea, and strolling couples forever frozen in the pieces of a jigsaw puzzle.

Artist's Gallery


RoGallery Logo

Phone: 800.888.1063 or 718.937.0901 - Email:

47-15 36th Street - Long Island City, NY 11101