Lars Thorsen (1876-1952)
Calm and Peace, Noank
Oil on canvas
Mystic Museum of Art Permanent Collection
Donated by the Estate of Betsey C. Halsey
Born in Stavanger, Norway, Thorsen was working with his father on a little Icelandic steamer by the age of twelve. By the time he was twenty, he had rounded Cape Horn four times.
He worked as a mess-boy, sailmaker, rigger, and Grand Banks fisherman before coming to Noank, Connecticut in 1906 at the age of 30, finding employment as a master rigger at the Palmer Shipyard. Thorsen later owned his own fishing smack and fished for several years in Fisher’s Island Sound. It was in Noank where he made the acquaintance of Henry Ward Ranger, who encouraged the amateur artist’s burgeoning talent along with fellow Noanker and marine painter, Captain Thomas Peterson, whose murals still adorn the walls of the New London Post Office (formally the Mariner’s Saving’s Bank of New London). Thorsen would also add his own murals to the old bank building.
Thorsen was an early member of the Mystic Art Association, exhibiting his work here from the 1920s to his death in 1952. He became proficient in pencil, pastel, oil, watercolor, monotype, and drypoint etching, but he almost always depicted local scenes of Noank docks and fishing boats and large paintings of historic tall ships from the romantic Clipper Ship age. In addition to this pastel, MMoA is proud to have several paintings and etchings by Lars Thorsen; his work can also be found in the collection of the Mystic Seaport Museum.
Thorsen is still remembered locally for his kindness, generosity, and friendliness. He regularly donated paintings to be auctioned off for the benefit of groups including the Boy Scouts and the Woman’s Auxiliary of the Lawrence and Memorial Hospital. He was an expert at working with rope and made a knot board for the Sea Scouts as well as large knot boards for the Mystic Seaport.