A little bit of Maine is headed to Arkansas.
The Arkansas Arts Center in Little Rock announced Thursday it had received a gift of 290 watercolors and drawings by the great modernist John Marin, who spent much of his life and career in Maine. The gift is courtesy of Norma B. Marin, who lives in New York and Portland. She is the artist’s daughter-in-law and administers his estate.
The Arkansas museum said the gift establishes the Arkansas Arts Center as the second-largest repository of Marin works. The National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C., has the largest collection.
In a statement, Norma Marin said she made the gift in recognition of the Arkansas Arts Center’s “long history of collecting and exhibiting great American works on paper, so I feel like we’ve found the perfect home for them.”
In a news release, the museum said it planned to mount a major Marin exhibition in 2016.
The gift to the Little Rock museum may be seen as rebuffing overtures by Maine museum directors, who have lobbied the Marin estate over the years, observers said. Norma Marin and the Marin estate have given many works to Maine museums, and many believed this trove of paintings would end up in Maine.
Maine museum directors either did not return calls or declined to discuss the Arkansas gift Thursday.
The value of the works and their significance could not be independently verified Thursday.
Marin lived from 1870 to 1953, and began coming to Maine in 1914. After exploring the midcoast for several years, he and his family settled at Cape Split in Addison, far Down East. Norma Marin is the widow of John Marin Jr., the artist’s son.
Marin is best known for his watercolors of urban structures, landscapes and seascapes.
Combined, museums in Maine have more than 100 Marin paintings, drawings and prints in their collections, most courtesy of Norma Marin and the Marin estate. Colby College Museum of Art in Waterville has the most in Maine, with more than 60 works of art. The University of Maine Museum of Art in Bangor has 26. The Portland Museum of Art has 13 pieces. Bowdoin has seven, and the Ogunquit Museum of American Art has two.
The Marin gift included work from every major period of his career. The earliest drawings are architectural renderings and drawings of New Jersey, where Marin was born and where he lived when not in Maine; and of Philadelphia, where he studied at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts.
Also represented are his years in Paris and his return to America, including his best-known subjects from Maine and New York.
Staff Writer Bob Keyes can be contacted at 791-6457 or: