“I am using this subject matter because I know it.” Claude Howell was born in Wilmington, N.C., and spent his long career capturing the coast. He loved the remoteness of scenes he discovered on Ocracoke Island (population 948, 2010 census) before, as he put it, “the tourists found it.” Fishermen, sand dunes, and open space inspired hundreds of drawings, which he took back to his studio, safe from mosquitoes, as guides for paintings.
The all-white lighthouse of Ocracoke is a recognizable landmark and the oldest in the state still in use. Throughout the 1800s its light guided ships into the harbor with goods bound for the mainland. Since then the islanders have survived on fishing and tourism. Long before the lighthouse was constructed, Blackbeard the pirate used the harbor, and it was there that he was killed by the British navy. The island is still accessible only by water or small planes.