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John Orne Johnson Frost Portrait

John Orne Johnson Frost

Also Known as: J. O. J. Frost

Marblehead, Massachusetts 1852

Marblehead, Massachusetts 1928

Photo Caption:
Copyright Unknown.

Luce Artist Quote

"[He] never considered his work to be of artistic merit, but he wanted it to give pleasure, and above all to keep alive for the younger generation the history of his native town." John Frost's granddaughter, "J. O. J. Frost, Painter-Historian of Marblehead" by Nina Fletcher Little, Art in America, October 1955


J. O. J. Frost grew up surrounded by the maritime lore of his native Marblehead, Massachusetts. He went to sea at age sixteen for two years, but gave up being a fisherman in 1870 to run a seafood restaurant for most of his life. After his wife's suicide in 1919, Frost began to paint and sculpt in an effort to educate the citizens of Marblehead about the history of their town. By 1925, he had built a small museum behind his house in which to exhibit his work. Although the people of Marblehead displayed little interest in the museum, it did become a minor tourist attraction.

Lynda Roscoe Hartigan Made with Passion: The Hemphill Folk Art Collection in the National Museum of American Art (Washington, D.C. and London: National Museum of American Art with the Smithsonian Institution Press, 1990)

Additional Biographies

Luce Artist Biography

John Orne Johnson Frost grew up in Marblehead, Massachusetts, and lived there his entire life. As a teenager, he spent summers fishing at sea and worked as a shoemaker during the winter months. He gave up fishing in 1870 to get married and a few years later opened a seafood restaurant and flower shop with his wife. Frost only began to paint and sculpt after his wife's death in 1919. He wanted to re-create the history of Marblehead, and his paintings show scenes of the town from its early wilderness beginnings through the Revolution and the Civil War. In 1926, Frost opened a small gallery to show his work; a short time later, some of his friends saw people laughing at Frosts paintings and urged him to take them down. Frost refused, saying "if that picture of mine makes people laugh, it is serving a very useful purpose. So I guess I'll let it stay right where it is." (Thomas Drier, "Concerning Jack Frost," Marblehead Messenger, 1925, quoted in Martha B. Katz's thesis, 1971)