Category Archives: Winslow Homer Studio

Inspired by Winslow Homer

By Julia Einstein
Assistant Director of Family and Studio Learning

On Friday, October 12, from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m., Portland artist Rob Sullivan will create a special PMA experience inspired by the paintings of Winslow Homer. Rob, a teacher at Maine College of Art
and a landscape painter, will share with visitors a crucial element in painting—that wonderful magic that happens when an artist experiences a sense of place, connecting to the landscape before a painting is complete. Rob will display his own quick sketches, pencil studies, notes, and invite you to join him at his easel!

After an inspiring trip to Winslow Homer’s Studio in Prouts Neck and the Winslow Homer Gallery at Prouts Neck in the museum, Rob and I spoke about painting, teaching, Maine, and Homer.

Talk about yourself as an artist and a teacher of landscape painting.
When asked, “How do you teach it?” I answer, “Don’t be so literal.” Start with a lesson in designing the landscape. Then, focus on the dynamic application of paint. When I bring my students into the PMA, I ask them to imagine that you could take the painting outside of the museum and to wonder where the artist painted it.

What kind of landscapes are you attracted to?
The sublime, the romantic—big nature. A place that can only be captured in a painting, that’s the closest thing to expressing the experience of being there.

And Maine?
I look for a level of atmosphere. I like Maine’s gray flat days and the mystery of fog. It limits your painting palette so that when you add a color, it is more vibrant in this context.

Where is “your” place?
The cliffs at Two Lights Park, the spot where the rocks flatten out. Also, on the Eastern Prom with the vista onto the bay.

You visited “Homer’s rocks” at the Homer studio and…
I felt “comforted.” That might sound odd at first—perhaps inspired, awe-struck, or even humbled, are more expected responses. But I say “comforted,” because as an artist whose work is very much inspired by Homer and the classic traditions of on-site landscape painting, I was already familiar with the sublime experience of being in a setting that inspires one to paint. It was standing there, in Homer’s “place” that I felt a contemplative serenity and I know Homer felt it, too. I look at his work and I know it for a fact.

Is it more of an understanding about his inspiration, the subject, the man—the artist, or the history?
It is a rich history. This feeling, this intimate visual communion through physical study— observing, drawing, painting. I thought about how the tide, the weather, the seasons, all come into play. I began to understand how Homer saw clearly the infinite variations that would indeed last him a lifetime. What’s more, is that he made this his home.

(In the Winslow Homer at Prout’s Neck gallery) What is it about looking at Winslow Homer’s easel or the watercolor palette and paintbox?
The tools of the painter are so very familiar to us all—visually synonymous with the word “artist.” As a painter, I feel the inherent nature of the instruments even more so when they have been wielded by another artist. And, of course, Homer is not just any artist—he was an expert painter.

What are you looking for—what do you notice?
His very hands wore the handles of the brush down. The easel stands as the place where genius may have struck, or battles were fought. And the watercolor palette—his deep knowledge of color theory is seen in his handwriting labeling the spaces for the little squares of watercolor.

Join us on Friday, October 12 from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. for Artist Intervention–Rob Sullivan: Being There. Free admission! Free Fridays, from 5 p.m. to 9 p.m., is made possible through the generous support of L.L.Bean and Patricia and Cyrus Hagge.

Artists’ Studios: Mark Wethli

In our Artists’ Studios series, four artists talk about how studio and place affect their work, and what Maine means to them.

Mark Wethli is a painter and public artist who lives and works in Brunswick, Maine, where he is also the A. LeRoy Greason Professor of Art at Bowdoin College.

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Produced by Allen Baldwin at Strongpaw Productions.

Weatherbeaten: Winslow Homer and Maine

By Karen Sherry, Curator of American Art

To commemorate the opening of the Winslow Homer Studio, the PMA is proud to present Weatherbeaten: Winslow Homer and Maine during the fall season. This special exhibition showcases Homer’s artistic output at Prouts Neck with a selection of more than thirty major oils, watercolors, drawings, and engravings. Four featured works come from the PMA’s collection, while the remaining pictures are being lent by other institutions and private collectors from across the country, offering visitors a once-in-a lifetime opportunity to see many of Homer’s most critically acclaimed masterpieces together. The accompanying catalogue, with essays by experts in the field, presents new perspectives on the Winslow Homer Studio, his work at Prouts Neck, and the formative role of place in his artistic vision.

Homer’s move to Maine in 1883 marked a dramatic shift in his oeuvre. Earlier in his career, he was primarily known for realistic images of the Civil War, rural children, and modern American leisure pursuits. At Prouts Neck, he turned his focus to marine subjects, including narrative pictures of the trials of fishermen and sailors and seascapes of waves crashing on the rocky shore. Such works achieved a new level of artistic sophistication in their ability to capture a particular place with vivid specificity, while simultaneously exploring more profound themes of mortality. Inspired by the rugged beauty and dramatic weather of Prouts Neck, Homer envisioned the natural world as a metaphorical arena for the contest of life and death, of humankind against nature.

Created in 1894 at the height of Homer’s creative powers, the PMA’s painting Weatherbeaten serves as both the namesake of this exhibition and as a quintessential example of his late work. In this seascape, Homer recreated the physical characteristics of storm churned waters and craggy rocks with thick, vigorously applied paint. The title also evokes the timeless, unrelenting force of nature. Highly regarded during the artist’s lifetime for their originality, Weatherbeaten and the other pictures in this exhibition helped to establish an iconic image of the Maine coast for American audiences. Homer’s works inspired subsequent generations of artists and continue to awe viewers to this day.

We hope that you will take the opportunity to experience the power of Homer’s most celebrated works with a visit to Weatherbeaten: Winslow Homer and Maine. The PMA is the only venue for this special exhibition, so be sure to see it before it closes on December 30.