The endless variations of the ocean’s color and movement first captivated artist Winslow Homer during the time he worked from Prouts Neck in Scarborough in the late 1800s and early 1900s.

Now that same view is inspiring a new generation of artists through a program offered at Homer’s legendary studio perched high above the rocky Atlantic shore in the secluded oceanside community found at the end of Black Point Road.

Homer’s studio is owned by the Portland Museum of Art, which began offering what it’s calling Art Experience tours for the first time this spring.

The goal of the program is to allow anyone interested a chance to “walk where Winslow Homer walked. Find inspiration in the landscapes that inspired him (and) create art in the same place where he created some of America’s greatest masterpieces,” according to a press release issued by the museum.

Elizabeth Jones, the director of audience engagement and communications at the museum, said the Art Experience is designed to allow people to be inspired by “this magical place. It’s hard not to feel creative here and we wanted to tap into that.”

Although the Art Experience tours have ended with the start of the summer tourist season, Jones said the Portland Museum of Art plans to bring the program back in the fall. And, she said, it’s not just for professional artists, but also for anyone who is seeking inspiration.

“It’s really for anyone,” Jones said. “This spring we’ve had a mixture of painters, photographers, sketch (artists) and even writers. It’s more about being inspired by Homer.”

She also said the Art Experience tours are just a part of the slate of new offerings the museum hopes to provide now that it’s acquired a conservation easement of the land surrounding Homer’s studio. Jones also wants to offer architecture tours, among other new programs.

For the Art Experience program, a van transports participants from the museum, located in downtown Portland, to Homer’s studio where they get a short tour and then are allowed to wander freely in and around the studio and grounds, as well as out onto the cliff walk and the adjacent rocks.

This is where Homer painted his most famous seascapes, including “Weatherbeaten,” which is now owned by the Portland Museum of Art.

This piece, from 1894, is described as “a virtuoso demonstration of the aesthetic and metaphorical power of (Homer’s) Maine seascapes,” according to the museum’s catalog.

He also painted the piece “Cannon Rock” while at Prouts Neck. The 1895 painting is owned by the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City, and the Met’s catalog describes the painting as one that “Homer seems to have distilled from nature (and) its elemental components – rocky shore, pounding sea and leaden sky.”

Heidi Dikeman, a graphic artist from Portland, took part in last week’s Art Experience tour.

“Just being here is inspiring,” she said.

She noted that Homer’s work really changed when he began working at Prouts Neck.

“Now I can see why,” she said. “Being here, I really get it.”

Dikeman intended to just take photographs, but also ended up pulling out her sketchbook and charcoal pencils, as well. She said it was a treat to be in the same place and looking at the same view where Homer himself worked.

Ken Murphy, who owns the firm Murphy Empire Design in the Old Port, said he jumped at the chance to attend the final Art Experience event of the spring on June 17.

He grew up sculpting, painting and drawing and has a degree from the Maine College of Art. Murphy, who is originally from South Portland, also used to work at the Black Point Inn as a bell captain and knew Doris Homer, who married Winslow Homer’s nephew, Charles Homer, following World War II. For nearly 20 years after her retirement, she worked to preserve Homer’s legacy, offering select tours of his studio and maintaining the historic building.

Murphy called the chance to sketch out on the rocks in front of Homer’s studio last week a homecoming of sorts. He said while working at the Black Point Inn he got the chance to know Doris Homer, “so I’ve been here many, many times.”

Still, he cleared his calendar last week, after being invited to take part in the Art Experience tour by Jones.

“It’s just really, really nice to be here and to draw and sketch,” Murphy said.

He had “zero ideas” for what he wanted to accomplish during the afternoon, but decided he would just do “what inspires me.” Murphy ended up drawing an Atlantic salmon, which were once ubiquitous in the Gulf of Maine, but are now rare.

Overall, he said, “it just feels great (to be here). I couldn’t be happier.”

Seth Gass, another artist taking part in last week’s Art Experience, called the program “valuable and unique,” especially in how it connects the past to the present.

While never being “super into” Homer’s seascapes, Gass said, being out on the rocks in front of the artist’s former studio was “still inspiring.” He also said the connection that Homer made to the sea and nature is “quintessential Maine.”

A photographer and filmmaker with an interest in “patterns and layers,” Gass spent most of his time last week taking candid photos of the others on the tour as they interacted with the environment.

“I took photos of them receiving enjoyment and just being lost in the moment that should fit in well with my portfolio,” he said.

Gass also said that sitting by the sea has “a special reverence” and that there’s “something wild about it.”

Louisa Donelson, who is the associate educator for youth learning at the Portland Museum of Art, was one of the leaders of the tour last week.

She said a favorite part of her job is “providing people with a special place to be inspired,” and that’s exactly what the Art Experience tour offers.

Donelson, who brought her own watercolors out to the studio earlier this month, said what’s great about being able to visit Homer’s studio and the places where he painted is that it provides “a whole new way to understand his life and work.”

She also said the Art Experience tours are a way to both put Homer’s work “in context” and to “make it relevant.”

“It’s rare to be able to visit specific scenes from works of art,” she said.

According to Homer’s biographer, William Downes, living at the studio on Prouts Neck allowed Homer to “have a perpetual te?te-a?-te?te with the ocean, which beat upon the great ledges almost at his door.”

In addition, an informational plaque at the studio states that “from the vantage point of his studio and on many walks along the rocks, Winslow Homer pursued the remarkable light of Maine, the endless variations in the weather and the visual effects of waves as they struck the ledges and cliffs.”

The studio at Prouts Neck became Homer’s primary residence and workspace beginning in 1884 and the artist continued to live and work there until his death in 1910.

In an 1889 letter to his brother, Charles, Homer said, “That I am in the right place at present there is no doubt about, as I have found something interesting to work at, in my own field, and time and place and material in which to do it.”

And in a quote mounted at the studio now, Homer said, “The rare thing is to find a painter who knows a good thing when he sees it.”

Homer was born in Boston and began his artistic career in the late 1850s. He first became well known as an illustrator working for popular magazines, such as Harper’s Weekly. During the Civil War, he also came to national attention for his images of rank-and-file soldiers, as well as other wartime scenes.

Following the war, Homer concentrated his efforts on oil painting and watercolor. But it wasn’t until he moved to Prouts Neck that his art changed “dramatically in theme and mood,” according to the Portland Museum of Art’s webpage on Homer.

“Inspired by the raw beauty of the Maine coast (Homer) created monumental marine narratives and seascapes that investigate humankind’s life-and-death struggles against the sea and the elemental power of nature,” the webpage goes on to state.

The museum adds that, “Painted with vigorous brushwork and closely observed realism, these late paintings capture the titanic force of waves crashing against the rocky shore in varying seasons and climactic conditions.”

Winslow Homer’s studio rises above the trees behind Heidi Dikeman, a graphic designer, as she works on a charcoal drawing on the rocks at Prouts Neck last week.Photo by Rich ObreyCannon Rock, painted in 1895, is one of Winslow Homer’s most well-known seascapes.Courtesy imageGraphic designer Ken Murphy of Portland works on a drawing of an Atlantic salmon while sitting on the rocks in front of the Winslow Homer studio in Prouts Neck. Photos by Rich ObreyThe view from the historic Winslow Homer Studio is still inspiring artists 130 years later. This photo looks out over Prouts Neck to Bluff and Stratton islands and the Atlantic beyond.Seeking inspiration from the rocky coast in front of her is Sarah Connor from Ohio, an intern with the Portland Museum of Art.


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