PORTLAND – This coming weekend, the Portland Museum of Art will move one step closer toward establishing itself as the pre-eminent authority on Winslow Homer.

On Friday and Saturday, the museum will host Winslow Homer Weekend.

Scholars and invited guests from around the country will gather at Homer’s studio at Prouts Neck on Friday night for a little party, then take up quarters all day Saturday at the museum to discuss, debate and dissect all things Homer.

The weekend events are not open to the public, but much of what comes out of the weekend will certainly make its way into the public domain. The subjects that scholars and historians discuss will enhance our common-man understanding of the great American painter.

Among the topics on the agenda are Homer the humorist, Homer the legend and Homer as a representative of the American identity.

More important, the weekend discussion is the first in a series of Homer-related activities designed to make the PMA the authority on Homer, his work and his place in American art history. From here on out, when people think about Homer, they’ll think about the Portland Museum of Art.

The museum owns a terrific collection of Homer paintings, in oil and watercolor. Through Sept. 6, the watercolors and a few of the oils are on display in a second-floor gallery, offering visitors a truly rare opportunity to see all the PMA watercolors on view at once.

The exhibition is titled “Winslow Homer and the Poetics of Place,” and chief curator Thomas Denenberg will address the importance of place in Homer’s work during a Saturday morning lecture.

Other scholars will follow throughout the day.

These events set the stage for 2012, when the PMA will open the reclaimed studio — which it has been conserving and restoring since 2006 — and mount a major Homer exhibition featuring many of his most significant oil paintings and other items.

The PMA believes there is no institution better suited to take on the role of Homer authority, and it intends to flex.

“This event kicks off our next two years of thinking about Winslow Homer and the Winslow Homer studio at Prouts Neck and Winslow Homer’s role in American art history,” said Dana Baldwin, the museum’s director of education.

“Because of the acquisition of the studio and the quality of our collection, we are poised to take a leadership role in the international picture and study of Winslow Homer’s work. This weekend is really the launching of the thought process. It’s the first sentence in a two-year conversation about Winslow Homer at the Portland Museum of Art.”

Museum Director Mark Bessire is fond of reminding people that Homer is tied directly to the museum in ways that go far beyond the paintings and the studio.

The Homer paintings currently on view came to the museum as a gift, with the condition that the museum build a wing appropriate to house them. The gift led to the construction of the Payson wing, which opened in 1983.

The modern Payson wing transformed the museum, and helped turn it from a sleepy museum into one with a national reputation.

Homer, who died 100 years ago, has a long history with the institution. As a living artist, he showed new work at the old Portland Society of Art, which became the museum.

While the Winslow Homer Weekend events are not open to the public, there will be plenty of opportunities for folks to enjoy the artist’s work. The Homer watercolor show is on view through the summer, and if you have not seen it yet, you really should.

It features 28 works, and it’s the first time since 1988 that all of the watercolors have been on view together.

On Aug. 12, the U.S. Postal Service will issue a commemorative stamp featuring the Homer painting “Boys in a Pasture” from 1874. That painting is owned by the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston.

The PMA will mark the occasion by unveiling the new stamp on its first day of issue, and from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Aug. 12, post office representatives will be at the museum to postmark stamps with a special pictorial postmark designed for the event.

It’s the second Homer stamp the postal service has issued. The other, in 1962, featured the painting “Breezing Up (A Fair Wind).”


Staff Writer Bob Keyes can be contacted at 791-6457 or at: [email protected]