December 22, 2013

Portland couple gives collection of photos to PMA

The gift represents many highlights of 20th-century U.S. photography with an emphasis on photographers working in Maine.

By Bob Keyes
Staff Writer

(Continued from page 1)

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Owen and Anna Wells pose in the fourth-floor gallery at the Portland Museum of Art with some of the photographs they have donated to the museum.

Shawn Patrick Ouellette/Staff Photographer

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Owen Wells, right, who donated a collection of photographs to the Portland Museum of Art along with Annie Wells looks over some of the yet to be hung photographs along with, Craig Denekas, during a recent visit to the museum Monday, Dec. 16, 2013. Shawn Patrick Ouellette/Staff Photographer

Shawn Patrick Ouellette/Staff Photographer

Additional Photos Below



WHEN: On view through Feb. 23; 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Saturday and Sunday; 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. Friday

ADMISSION: $12 adults, $10 seniors and students with ID, $6 youth ages 13 to 17, and children 12 and younger free; free for all from 5 to 9 p.m. Friday

INFO: 775-6148;

And certainly, Robert Mapplethorpe conjures sexually charged, provocative images. In the Wells collection, we see “Man on Side Street” from 1976. The photographer experiments with light and composition as he frames a solitary figure tending to a sidewalk shop in New York.

“It’s different,” Wells said. “It’s not what you would expect, which is what attracted me.”


Zilhka, 27, began working on this project in the summer. She grew up in Portland, graduated from Middlebury College in 2008, and earned her master’s at the Courtauld Institute of Art in London, studying European modernism with a focus on photography.

Home visiting her parents this summer, she learned of the opportunity to work with the Wells collection, and accepted the challenge of researching and assembling the show.

When this project is over, she plans to return to her research position at the Picasso Museum in Barcelona.

Owen and Anna Wells have deep roots with the Portland museum. Owen is past president of the trustees; Anna is current president.

They met at a museum function in 1980, fell in love and spent their life together collecting and donating art to museums across Maine. Among their gifts to the Portland museum is a Frederic Church landscape, “Mount Katahdin from Millinocket Camp.” It’s one of the most important paintings in the museum collection, Bessire said.

“If you just walk around the museum and look at the labels, you will see that over time they have had a major impact on our collection,” he said.

The photography collection is the latest example.

Owen Wells learned the giving way at the helm of Maine philanthropist Elizabeth Noyce, who gave art across Maine and founded the Libra Foundation. Owen Wells is vice chair of the Libra Foundation.

“I’ve taken great inspiration from Betty,” Owen Wells said. “She loved her art, she loved collecting and she loved giving it away.”

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

Twitter: pphbkeyes

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Additional Photos

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“Apple Orchard, Tesuque, N.M.,” 1981, dye coupler print by Paul Caponigro.

© Paul Caponigro

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Untitled, 1990, dye coupler print by William Wegman.

© William Wegman

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“Park Avenue Garage,” 1965, printed 1980, gelatin silver print by Ralph Steiner.

© Ralph Steiner Photography

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