– BOB KEYES

Staff Writer

SCARBOROUGH – When Winslow Homer lived at Prouts Neck, the exterior of his studio was painted a dark olive green with brick-red trim. It was understated and quiet.

Within a year after his death in 1910, his family changed the color to light green and added sharp white trim. With the change in color, the studio went from being an artist retreat to a classic Maine cottage.

“If you saw it, you would recognize it as a house on the coast of Maine. The color scheme suggested the fantasy of the Maine camp,” said Thomas Denenberg, chief curator of the Portland Museum of Art. “But the fact is, the studio was not a summer retreat but a place of work.”

The museum acquired the Homer studio in 2006 and is in the process of returning the studio to its humble status that it enjoyed when Homer lived and worked there. That means undoing a century of change.

The work has been slow and methodical. It began with an archaeological dig and the rebuilding of the studio’s rock foundation. The building itself was stabilized and reinforced, and this fall, the museum will remove an addition to the studio that was added in the 1940s, long after Homer’s death.

Homer did much of his painting in a large room on the second floor. In his day, it had two windows facing east.

Because of changes that were made to the studio over time, historians have sometimes assumed that Homer painted in a light-filled perch overlooking the sea. But that’s not the case.

Museum research suggests that Homer’s studio, while spacious, offered limited light, and the door that opened to the famous wrap-around porch — or piazza, as Homer called it — was quite small, limiting the size of canvases that the artist could haul out to the deck.

“He really did not have a lot of light. Instead, it’s a small, intimate, clubby, wood-paneled place,” Denenberg said.

“Discoveries like this are the whole point of this project. We’re not restoring a building out here, we’re preserving a place.”

The museum hopes to open the studio to the public in September 2012.

Staff Writer Bob Keyes can be contacted at 791-6457 or at:

[email protected]