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

(Continued from page 3)

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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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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


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


The studio project represents the most significant cultural investment the museum has made, Bessire said. The PMA raised more money a decade ago to restore and reopen the McLellan House and Sweat Galleries, but that project was much larger in physical scope. It involved two buildings with many rooms, each of which demanded attention.

The Homer studio is relatively small -- just 2,400 square feet -- but it represents one of America's most important cultural landmarks, Bessire said. It was named a National Historical Landmark in 1966.

The preservation of the studio was an obligation, Bessire said.

"We needed to do this, because the studio might have gone into private hands," he said. "It was not an easy decision to take on something that is not about generating new revenue. It's about recognizing the importance of American culture. It's about our heritage."

Homer is deeply entwined with the history of the Portland Museum of Art. He exhibited there in 1893, when it was known as the Portland Society of Art.

In 1976, philanthropist Charles Shipman Payson pledged his collection of 17 Homer paintings and watercolors, along with an endowment that led to the construction of the museum's modern Payson wing, which opened in 1983. In addition to the Payson paintings, the museum's Homer collection includes 400 illustrations.

Significantly, almost half of the money raised for the studio project came from out of state, Bessire said. Typically, the museum's capital campaigns are funded predominantly with money from Maine. That this one reached so far afield is testament to the national importance of this project, said Bessire.

The museum also secured the single largest corporate sponsorship in its history to help fund the "Weatherbeaten" exhibition, from Bank of America. Bessire declined to say how much the Bank of America sponsorship is worth.

Additionally, the museum went to extraordinary lengths to insure the art that is on view in the "Weatherbeaten" show. The value of the work is so high -- Bessire declined to guess how high -- that the PMA secured indemnity insurance from the federal government. The paintings come from many of the most prestigious museums in the country.

The museum hopes to capitalize on the studio opening and related exhibition. A new attendance record is not out of the question, Bessire said, and the museum has created a line of Homer merchandise, including a Homer bobblehead doll.

Wilmerding, the retired art historian from Princeton, has visited the studio many times over the years. He's always appreciated the simplicity of it.

Now that Homer's place looks and feels as it did when the artist lived there, Wilmerding better understands the role of the studio in Homer's life, and on the man himself.

"I am impressed by the raw nature and the austerity of it, the restraint," he said. "There is very little materialism here. The materialism is in the landscape itself. The wonderful sense of the character of the landscape can be seen in this very humble place.

"In that studio, Homer was able to face the infinite as his own life moved into the older years. That landscape gave him the sustenance to face the largest questions of life and the imminence of death itself."

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


Twitter: pphbkeyes


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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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