Gloucester, Massachusetts, the picturesque seaport located about forty miles north of Boston, became a popular gathering place for artists during the latter part of the nineteenth century. Childe Hassam convinced Metcalf to come to Gloucester in the summer of 1895. Here Metcalf produced at least six paintings, which were the only American landscapes he painted between the years 1883 and 1902.
The work he completed during his 1895 visit to Gloucester reflected a significant, though somewhat momentary shift in his painting style. Summer Day, Gloucester, Massachusetts exhibits the emphasis on the penetrating light and vivid color that was championed by the impressionists, along with the loose brushwork that was characteristic of their work. Undoubtedly influenced by the presence of Hassam, Metcalf chose to work in the open air, depicting the rich foliage and expansive waterfront that made Gloucester an attractive haven for vacationing city dwellers. The unusually high horizon, skirted by the diminutive sailboats that dot the water, lends depth to the composition and demonstrates a newfound freedom in his work. Metcalf exhibited several of his Gloucester landscapes in the 1896 exhibition of the Society of American Artists, winning the coveted Webb prize for his work Gloucester Harbor.