Take a virtual tour of the Winslow Homer studio at Prouts Neck in Scarborough, which the Portland Museum of Art will open for tours on Sept. 25.

September 16, 2012

What Winslow Homer saw in Maine

The artist's profound impact on American art flourished during his time in Maine. Now, access to his newly restored Prouts Neck studio helps us see why.

By Bob Keyes bkeyes@pressherald.com
Staff Writer

SCARBOROUGH - Winslow Homer came to Maine and looked outward into the infinite. What he saw when he arrived at land's end changed not only his personal perspective of the world and his mortal place in it, but also the course of American art.

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A picture window in the parlor of Winslow Homer’s studio at Prouts Neck in Scarborough offers an impressive view of the ocean, an inspiration for the artist in his day.

Gregory Rec/Staff Photographer

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The Winslow Homer Studio at Prouts Neck in Scarborough will open to the public Sept. 25.

Gregory Rec/Staff Photographer

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"WEATHERBEATEN: WINSLOW HOMER AND MAINE"

WHEN: Opens Saturday. On view through Dec. 30.

WHERE: Portland Museum of Art, 7 Congress Square

HOURS: 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily, with extended hours to 9 p.m. Fridays through Columbus Day. After Columbus Day, the museum is closed Mondays.

HOW MUCH: $12; $10 for seniors and students with ID; $6 for ages 13 to 17; free for ages 12 and younger; free for all after 5 p.m. Friday

INFO: 775-6148; portlandmuseum.org

WINSLOW HOMER: A BRIEF HISTORY

Feb. 24, 1836: Winslow Homer is born in Boston.

1859: Homer opens a studio in New York City.

1861: Harper’s magazine dispatches Homer to sketch scenes from the Civil War.

1863-66: Homer exhibits war-scene paintings at the National Academy of Design.
Post-Civil War: Homer concentrates on his work as a serious, fine-art painter and creates several seminal paintings, including “Snap the Whip” and “Breezing Up (A Fair Wind).”

1881-82: Homer spends two years in England at the coastal village of Cullercoats, developing a fondness for painting working men and women. His paintings take on a new degree of seriousness.

1883: Homer arrives at Prouts Neck in Maine and hires Portland architect John Calvin Stevens to renovate a carriage house as his home and studio.

1890: Homer adds a piazza and painting room to the Prouts Neck cottage.

1893: Homer exhibits his painting “Signal of Distress” at the Portland Society of Art (now known as the Portland Museum of Art).

Sept. 29, 1910: Homer dies in his studio at Prouts Neck. He is interred at Mount Auburn Cemetery in Cambridge, Mass.

1966: Prouts Neck studio named a National Historic Landmark.

2006: The Portland Museum of Art purchases the Prouts Neck studio from Homer’s heirs and begins a six-year project to restore it to how it looked during Homer’s time.

Sept. 25, 2012: The Prouts Neck studio is scheduled to open to the public.

– Staff Writer Bob Keyes

From a simple, austere painting studio at Prouts Neck just south of Portland, the Boston-born painter cast his vision to the sea and established a reputation as the most important American painter of his generation and for generations to come.

The significance of the Prouts Neck studio and the art that Homer (1836-1910) made there during the final 27 years of his life will get a lot of attention this fall, in Maine and across the art world.

On Sept. 25, the Portland Museum of Art opens the wood-walled studio to the public for the first time since an extensive restoration project returned it to how it looked when Homer lived and created there. On Saturday, the museum unveils a major exhibition that focuses on the paintings he made there.

At Prouts Neck, Homer created powerful seascapes and contemplated the force and role of nature in a society grappling with technological change. The paintings he made there reached for something more than mere narrative descriptions that defined his earlier work, and suggested existential themes that resonated with and influenced his modernist descendants of the early 20th century.

He began to reconcile his own mortality, and infused modernist themes in his representational works. In doing so, he made it possible for the next generation of artists to take those ideas to new levels.

American art changed with Homer. And Homer changed it while in Maine.

"Homer is our most important American artist, or one of them. He is certainly our great painter of nature," says retired Princeton University art professor and part-time Maine resident John Wilmerding. "To have the place where he made his art available to us is one of the most significant developments in American art in quite some time.

"It's important, because it allows us to understand how the art was made and where it came from."

THE ART WORLD'S BEEN WATCHING

The Prouts Neck studio project is the culmination of a six-year, $10.8 million fundraising campaign that paid for the studio's purchase and preservation, an endowment, land acquisition, a major exhibition and scholarship, and related expenses.

Its restoration has reverberated nationally. The museum has already received extensive media coverage from The New York Times, Architectural Digest, Martha Stewart Living, Art + Auction, Preservation magazine, National Geographic Traveler and many others. "CBS Sunday Morning" filmed a segment that will air in the fall.

The museum purchased the studio from Homer's heirs in 2006 for $1.8 million. It sits a stone's throw from the water's edge, 12 miles from downtown Portland.

To the best knowledge of the architects and scholars who worked on the project, the small, simple building is almost exactly as it was when Homer lived there from 1883 until his death in 1910 at age 74.

With its bare walls still adorned with the artist's hand-scribed notes, the studio resonates with the patina of Homer's presence. Visitors will see where he set up his easel, his furniture, his smoking pipe, water can, family photographs and other artifacts from his daily life.

Most notably, the studio offers visitors the same views of the sea and the rugged coast that Homer enjoyed when he made his iconic seascapes and other late-career paintings. Here, nestled in the wealthy summer enclave that Homer's family helped establish, we see how he translated the environment into canvas, and can share his sensuous experience -- the sights, sounds and smells of the ocean.

(Continued on page 2)

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Additional Photos

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Winslow Homer's "Weatherbeaten," 1894, oil on canvas

Portland Museum of Art, Maine. Bequest of Charles Shipman Payson. Photo by Melville D. McLean.

  


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