Patti Leavitt and Barbara Applegate: romantic realism enjoyed

This summer season’s final profile discussing the work of artist members of the Pemaquid Art Gallery looks at two highly accomplished, masterful Bristol artists who could both be called romantic realists but have a surprisingly different feeling to their painting.

Patti Leavitt and Barbara Applegate are experienced, well-known painters who use different mediums — Leavitt exclusively pastel and Applegate mainly oil — to present richly colorful, light-infused, detailed and beautiful scenes of the world around them.

Because the Pemaquid Art Gallery didn’t open this summer due to the pandemic, the gallery has been highlighting members’ work, which can be viewed and purchased online at

Leavitt summers in Bristol and winters in Bonita Springs, Florida, and shows her work in both places—the Pemaquid gallery here and at the Center for the Arts in Bonita Springs. She has received several awards in juried shows and in Maine is a longtime favorite with visitors to the Pemaquid Gallery. She grew up in a family of artists and cannot remember when she wasn’t painting and drawing.

Leavitt has a broad range of subject matter, featuring farm scenes, Maine’s quaint coastal villages, woodlands, seascapes and still lifes, all familiar focuses of Maine artists. But her skill with pastels produces rich, deep colors and strong, intense shadows, often verging on an expressionistic creation of drama. Her bales of hay can be strongly backlit or picked out with suffused, dark shadows, her seascapes often share this use of intense shadows and even her beautifully detailed still lifes have a bold drama in their static, rich, powerful depiction of color and the play of light on colorful surfaces. Her love of rich color rewards the eye in all her work.

Applegate’s subject matter may be almost the same as Leavitt’s, but what a difference in style and feeling. Applegate has a strong public presence on the internet and a highly informative, sophisticated website with very useful instructive videos for artists. She has painted for 30 years and has been actively teaching art since 2001 using workshops, online instruction and many other means to “instruct and entertain,” as she puts its, aspiring artists.

She has a studio in Bristol Mills and shows in Brunswick at the Bayview Gallery, in Chatham, Massachusetts, at the Chatham Fine Art Gallery and in Lambertville, New Jersey at the Highlands Art Gallery. She has an extensive list of exhibitions and awards and has been the subject of numerous articles in national art journals.

She was born in Bucks County, Pennsylvania, and was influenced by the realism traditions of the great painters of that area, including Maine’s own Andrew Wyeth. She originally painted in the Delaware River area but relocated to Maine in 1996, escaping encroaching urban expansion.

Her paintings are realistic and often suffused with romanticism and nostalgia. Their dappled light and short, broken brush strokes create a strong impressionistic feeling of a gentle, light-filled atmosphere. Even in the powerful seascapes with windswept spray, there is a fascination with how light dances on the water.

As with Leavitt, her subject matter is broad-ranging, including landscapes, quaint village scenes, seascapes, interiors and still lifes, as well as animal portraits and figure paintings. She paints detailed interiors with vases of flowers on tables draped with cloths, with finely depicted play of light unifying the scenes. Her dramatic sky paintings link the viewer to the grandeur and romance of nature, while the quaint village scenes of flowers and cottages create another romantic nostalgia for a peaceful past. What a rich visual feast is presented by both of these painters.

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