A painting by the late artist Robert Solotaire, whose work will be on display through Aug. 26 at the Maine Jewish Museum in Portland. Courtesy of the Maine Jewish Museum

An exhibition of work by the late painter Robert Solotaire, who spent much of his adult life in Portland and Harpswell, will be on display at the Maine Jewish Museum, beginning Thursday and running through Aug. 26.

Solotaire, born and raised in New York City, was a prolific and well-regarded artist whose work often depicted landscapes and cityscapes, not just of Maine but communities he visited across the country.

From 1957 until his death in 2008, Solotaire’s paintings were exhibited at museums and galleries throughout the Northeast, including at the Portland Museum of Art and the Ogunquit Museum of American Art.

Nancy Davidson, curator of the Maine Jewish Museum, said Solotaire’s body of work is remarkable, but it hasn’t been turned into a retrospective-type exhibition until now.

“(He) was a man about town for many years,” Davidson said. “It was a pleasure to walk down Congress Street with him and have a lengthy conversation.”

Robert Solotaire.  Photo courtesy of the Maine Jewish Museum

The spark for the exhibit, titled “New York, Maine, New York,” came from Annette Elowitch, one of the founders of Barridoff Galleries in South Portland and a volunteer at the Jewish museum. She had a couple of Solotaire’s paintings in storage.


Then Davidson reached out to Solotaire’s son in New York, who agreed to offer some paintings for an exhibit. Dana Williams, a longtime friend of Solotaire who owned some of his work, did the same.

Solotaire was self-taught. His realist style and use of light draw comparisons to the early 20th century New York painter Edward Hopper, Davidson said.

“Our father spent his life dedicated to the art and the practice of painting,” Ben Solotaire said in a statement from the museum. “It’s hard to think of dad without a paintbrush in his hand, or standing in front of his easel, or without his camera walking down the street looking for new subject matter.

“For every hour he spent in front of the easel, he spent many more walking the streets of Portland, New York City, Pittsburgh, Santa Fe, and so many small industrial towns around the country that fascinated him. His subjects were the places people worked and lived, the streets they walked, and the factories and plants that were the backbone of so many of these cities.”

The Maine Jewish Museum is located with Etz Chaim Synagogue in Portland’s East End and has been home to contemporary art exhibitions for the last eight years, featuring established, Jewish-connected and Maine-connected artists.

The museum also houses Jack Montgomery’s photo exhibit of Holocaust survivors who settled in Maine, as well as a permanent exhibition of Maine Jewish History.

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