Monday, December 9, 2013
SCARBOROUGH - Winslow Homer's great-grandnephew believes the artist very likely would view the attention that he and his studio are getting these days as a nuisance.
Charles Homer Willauer, Winslow Homer’s great-grandnephew, at Winslow’s restored studio Monday. Homer would hate the attention but love the reason for it, he surmised.
Gregory Rec/Staff Photographer
But Charles Homer "Chip" Willauer of Scarborough believes Winslow Homer would be grateful that at least some of that attention is being paid to his paintings.
"I really think, frankly, that Winslow, who was a person who liked his privacy, probably would be a little bit surprised by all of the publicity and the interest," Willauer said Monday on the grounds of the painter's studio at Prouts Neck. "But I can't but think that, being a person proud of his work, he wouldn't be happy to feel that his work has finally gotten to the level where his studio is such an important part of American art."
The Portland Museum of Art opened the preserved studio to the media on Monday, after an extensive restoration project that dates back six years. The museum bought the studio from Willauer in 2006 for $1.8 million.
The project involved restoring the studio to the way it was when Homer lived there and created some of the most important paintings in American art. Homer lived at Prouts Neck for 27 years beginning in 1883. He died in the studio on Sept. 29, 1910.
The studio will open to the public next week. The museum is selling guided tours that will begin in the museum's galleries in downtown Portland and take people 12 miles to Prouts Neck by van.
Tours are available through Dec. 2 this year, and will resume next spring. They cost $55, and are sold out through October.
In conjunction with the studio's opening, the museum will open the exhibition "Weatherbeaten: Winslow Homer and Maine" on Saturday. The exhibition includes 38 oil paintings, watercolors and etchings that Homer made at Prouts Neck.
The museum borrowed paintings from several major U.S. museums to mount the show.
Willauer, who attended Monday's ribbon cutting at the studio, said he was pleased with the outcome of the project. He called it a "very happy conclusion" and praised the museum for taking it on.
Willauer's great-grandfather was Arthur Homer, the artist's younger brother. Arthur Homer was the first of the Homer clan to visit Prouts Neck. He made a brief visit in 1874, then returned the next year on his honeymoon, accompanied by most of his family, including his brother Winslow.
The painter moved to Prouts Neck in 1883 and arranged for the Portland architect John Calvin Stevens to move a carriage house from an adjacent property to its present site.
When he owned the studio, Willauer filled it with Homer memorabilia, including reproductions of his work, and kept the studio unlocked. Visitors were free to come and go. No one ever stole or disturbed anything, Willauer said.
"I did as much as I possibly could to bring an example to the experience of the artist, so if I found a postcard or a reproduction, I would buy it and have it framed and put it up. We had some almost to the ceiling," he said with a laugh.
The studio looks much nicer now, he said. "It was a great house, and great fun to live in."
Staff Writer Bob Keyes can be contacted at 791-6457 or at: