Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Winslow Homer at Home in Maine

Prout's Neck and Portland, Maine

June 15-16

Intrigued by a story we read in Yankee Magazine, we visited Prout's Neck, Maine, where Winslow Homer's older brother Charles bought a large plot of land along the rocky ocean shore and built a family compound. He modified a carriage house on the property to serve as Winslow's studio, where he could sit on a second story deck and watch the waves breaking on the rocks below. It was a place of refuge for him from 1883 until the day he died there in 1910. We made a pilgrimage to the modest studio, which is now dwarfed by elegant summer homes tucked in the hills all around it.

Winslow liked to walk a cliffside path near his studio with his dog, Sam. Following in his footsteps, we took hundreds of photographs, finding alluring views around every twist and turn in the path-- waves broke on the jagged rocks; beach roses grew from tiny crevices; calm pools reflected the sky and revealed sea life below; birds soared and floated; juniper trees blown by eons of ocean wind bent in ikebana poses.

The next day, we went to the Portland Art Museum, which has a large collection of works by Winslow Homer in a show entitled "The Poetics of Place." Seeing his painting "Weatherbeaten," we imagined we had taken a photo of the place along the cliffside path where he painted it in 1894, although he was there on a far stormier day than yesterday when we clambered over the rocks. (Compare our photo above with his painting, and see if you agree.)

We also watched a video about his studio, which the museum has recently acquired. We saw the studio from the outside yesterday, but came to appreciate it better, inside and out, today.

While the Portland Museum has many wonderful works by other artists whose work we enjoy—Renoir, Monet, Mary Cassat, Degas, Cezanne—it has an exceptional concentration of works by artists who lived in Maine or painted Maine subjects. For example, although most people associate N. C. Wyeth with Chadds Ford, Pennsylvania, he also had a home in Port Clyde, Maine, and his painting "Dark Harbor Fisherman" was one of our favorites for capturing the feelings we have for hard working watermen. (Tune in for more about those watermen in our next post!)

We could go on sharing our favorites from the museum for quite some time, but I'll end it here with a painting by Raoul Dufy, "Barques aux Martiques," which reminds me of our sunny visit to Bearskin Neck Wharf yesterday. Dick has photoshopped one of his photos from yesterday, making it more painterly to aid in the comparison.

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