Quick Reference

Time Period:
Painted in winter of 1931.

Union Street
Boston, MA

Oil on Canvas


Boston, People & Livestock

27 X 30

Exhibited as:
The Oyster House
Myles Standish Gallery (Feb) 1931
Myles Standish Gallery (Jun) 1931

Boston Romance; The Oyster House
Boston Art Club 1933

Boston Romance
Grand Central Founder's Day 1937




This painting was the first oil painting made from a chalk drawn en plain aire from the Hanover Square across from the Oyster House. Another larger painting, a 36 x 46 was painted from this painting and titled, In Old Boston

Related Links

Featured Artwork: Boston Romance originally named The Oyster House

The Oyster House
The image above is the sepia print for this painting originally titled, "The Oyster House"

RSW's Diary Comments

"This is a smaller painting of a large oil named Old Boston (which see)"

Comments for The Oyster House:

In Old Boston, Chalk, 1930   (scene #2)
The subject of the pastel painting above is one of two
original scenes made in chalk that became 4 oil paint-
ings. There is also an original chalk drawing of the
scene of the painting above but it never exhibited and
as RSW points out was sold quickly. The others all ex-
hibited at the same time but never together from 1931
to '35, with one exception- the chalk above and an its
similar oil hung together at Mt. Holyoke College, 1931.

The list of paintings, oil and chalks, in the order we
believe they were made, is as follows...                   
The Oyster House, Chalk, 1930 (original scene #1)
In Old Boston, Chalk, 1930 (original scene #2)
The Oyster House, Oil, 1931 (27" x 30" scene #1)
Old Boston, Oil, 1931 (40" x 50" scene #2)
In Old Boston, Oil, 1931 (36" x 42" scene #1)
In Old Boston, Oil, 1931 (27" x 30" scene #2)

✽ The 27" x 30" Oyster House painting was renamed
later to the appropriately titled Boston Romance, and
Old Boston (40" x 50") is the first painting to exhibit of
all the the paintings Woodward made of both scenes...

"Painted in winter of 1931. Portrait of Boston's Old Oyster House on Union St. just off from Hanover Square. Made a chalk drawing from the street of this subject (bought by dear Mrs. Howard Robbins) and from this made two paintings, this 27 x 30 and a larger 36 x 42. This 27 x 30 went to one of the Grand Central Art Gallery Founders Shows and was chosen by lot by private owner but I do not know whom. These galleries will not 'tell,' much to my annoyance!"

Excerpt from In Old Boston:

"The smaller painting 'Oyster House' was sold by the Grand Central Art Galleries from their Founders' Show..."

Comments on the back of a sepia print:

"This photograph is of a smaller painting (now sold) exactly like the larger one I now own (36 x 42) except that the present one I have for sale, has the baker leaning out of an upper window and one or two different figures on the street. All the rest is the same. Exquisite in color of old ochre and red brick and rich with old Boston atmosphere. The 36 x 42 is titled In Old Boston."

Editor's Note:

The diary comment above is just incorrect. This painting was NOT made from the painting Old Boston which is not even the subject of the Oyster House. The remarks made in his diary comments for In Old Boston (36" x 42") is the accurate account. This painting was made from a chalk drawing titled The Oyster House, chalk, the original drawing made from the scene in Boston. Read the caption to the left for more information.

A side by side comparison of the differences of the street scene.
A side by side comparison of the differences of the street scene between In Old Boston (left)
and Boston Romance (right) such as the dog and the cars.

Additional Notes

From the 1937 Grand Central Galleries Founder's Show catalog
An image scanned from the 1937 Grand
Central Galleries Founder's Show catalog

There has always been a question of how many paintings Woodward painted from his original chalk drawing. The reason is because a third name, Boston Romance appears in a 1937 catalog of the Grand Central Galleries Founder's Day Show. It is listed as being a 27 x 30 size painting just as The Oyster House and twice, in two different painting diary comments, RSW states that The Oyster House was sent to the Founder's Day Show and sold to "a private owner."

However, RSW remains consistent that he only painted TWO paintings from the original chalk, first a 27 x 30, then a 36 x 42 he still owned titled,In Old Boston. He also states the two paintings are different and our records show that to be true and so until proven otherwise... we believe that The Oyster House's name was changed to Boston Romance for the Founder's Day show with a use of Boston Romance; the Oyster House at the 1933 Boston Art Club in between. To the right is an actual scan of the listing from the exhibition's program.

The Ole Oyster House in 2013
The Ole Union Oyster House in 2013

From an uncited 1933 review :

"One local scene is depicted a familiar bit of this old city which he calls Boston Romance and presents in low key quite in tune with its hoary age. Boston Romance demonstrates clearly the decorative possibilities in form and color of such seldom painted spots as Union Square with its famous Oyster House. Exhibited at the Boston Art Club, July, 1933."

This painting only shows it exhibiting 4 times in 6 years. We wonder if it was left with the Myles Standish company for a couple of years, which also owned a hotel where RSW's work often hung for long periods. We cannot explain the gap of nearly 4 years between the 1933 Boston Art Club exhibition and 1937.

We do not have any image of the original chalk drawing, nor do we know of its whereabouts, so we could not tell you how exactly it matches this painting. In making the 36 x 42, In Old Boston, we believe he embellished the original to include, a baker looking out a window above, a dog on the sidewalk, and he added a mother and daughter just after the second car.

A side by side comparison of the differences of the street scene.
It is not a fair side by side comparison of Boston Romance (left) and In Old Boston (right) because In Old Boston
is a much larger painting. As you can see, RSW added more scenery around three quarters of the perimeter. He needed to do this as to not lose correct perspective of the Oyster House itself which nearly lines up to the original painting. Particularly in the far right and lower portion of the painting where he added the mother and daughter.

A postcard of the Oyster House from RSW's time
A postcard of the Oyster House from RSW's time

Woodward's trip to Boston in April of 1930 was significant for a number of reasons... (1) he rarely stayed anywhere for any length of time due to the expense and inconvenience, (2) he rarely ever attended the opening of any exhibit due to his desire for his work to sell based on its own merit, (3) these paintings are the only example we have of RSW painting an urban setting much like one you would find in the Ashcan style of NYC, and (4) with the exception of only a few other pieces of work, RSW tended to avoid any depiction of modern industrialization. We strongly suggest you visit our page devoted to the Boston Paintings for more.