Monthly Archives: September 2009

Jay Connaway: A Painter’s Painter

By Tom Denenberg
Deputy Director and Chief Curator

Once the paintings went up on the gallery walls, it became obvious that Jay Connaway was a painter’s painter. From looking at individual works for the last several months, I was ready for his dramatic compositions of Atlantic waves dashing onto the rocky coast as well as a dynamic sense of color, but Connaway’s technique I found to be a revelation. This is a man who clearly liked paint. Look closely when you visit and pay attention to the way he layers wet pigments and employs a number of “tricks”—like combining a number of colors together to depict sheets of rain falling off Monhegan, or how he uses the back of his brush to incise a series of parallel lines mimicking the wind whipping through tall grass. All in all, the 38 paintings in the exhibition demonstrate that Connaway was a first class painter who placed his prodigious talents in the service of the landscape of New England.

Moods of Nature: Jay Connaway and the Landscape of New England - on view through December 6.

Image credit: Jay Hall Connaway (United States, 1893–1970), October Sea, 1939, oil on artist’s board, 29 1/8 x 39 1/8 inches. From the collection of Mrs. Marjorie B. Osborne (Mrs. Gordon Osborne).

Getting Ready for the Auction

By Susan O’Connell
Auction Co-chair

Wow, just a week and a half ’til auction day and the various committees are working at warp speed to put all the pieces together…85 volunteers, 350 auction items with values from $25 to $25,000…it boggles the mind! We still have to gather all the items, get them to the Holiday Inn, stage them for exhibition, decorate the place and each of the 38 tables of eight that will accommodate the attendees (hmm…who will we seat with the new Director??). The good news is that we are almost sold out as reservations have been pouring in. People know that there are GREAT DEALS to be had as well as lots of fun and food—and you get to support Museum education and exhibits—what could be better?! Take a look at the live items on display in the Museum and remember that even if you can’t attend you can leave a bid or buy raffle tickets for a 1 in 300 chance to win $10,000!!! Sure beats the Lottery!!

Image credit: Connie Hayes, Mullions in June, 1999.

Memo from Margaret

By Margaret Burgess
Associate Curator of European and Modern Art

Monet, Monte Carlo

Hello! My name is Margaret and I’m the new Associate Curator of European and Modern Art at the Portland Museum of Art. I’m delighted to be here and enjoying getting to know my colleagues, studying the Museum’s collections, and acclimating to this wonderful city. Many of my ancestors and relatives were artists who lived and painted in Maine, so it’s nice to think that I’m walking in their footsteps.

I moved here from Washington, D.C., where I was working at the Corcoran Gallery of Art. Coming from the Corcoran, with its beautiful landscape by Pierre-Auguste Renoir, View from Cap Martin of Monte Carlo (circa 1884), I was particularly excited to see Claude Monet’s Monte Carlo Seen from Roquebrune (1884) here on view at the Museum on the second floor. This impressionist masterpiece is part of the Scott M. Black Collection on loan to the Museum. Both paintings depict the view along the Mediterranean Sea of Monte Carlo and the majestic rock formation the Tête de Chien (Dog’s Head) in the distance. The canvases were inspired by a journey which Renoir and Monet took together in 1883. The two artists traveled together from Marseilles to Genoa in December, visiting Monte Carlo along the way. Renoir remarked in a letter to his dealer Durand-Ruel about the fruitfulness of the expedition, noting that the terrain was magnificent, the horizons stretched on forever, and the mountains were bathed in a rosy tinge in the evening. He concluded that they were using “de belles couleurs.”* These beautiful colors are evident in both landscapes.

With the Renoir fresh in my mind and the Monet before me here, it has been fascinating for me to compare and contrast the two paintings and to marvel at how each artist approached the scene as well as negotiated each other’s style and technique. Both artists deftly framed the view of Monte Carlo with trees at the left and varied their brushstrokes across the canvas. As we can see in Monet’s painting, the artist applied staccato vertical brushstrokes to depict the buildings, used layered horizontal strokes to render the sea, and deployed more arabesque lines to capture the trees in the breeze. I’m eager to unite these works in a special exhibition here at the Museum in the future.

I hope that you will come to visit your favorite works of European and Modern Art here at the Portland Museum of Art and I look forward to meeting you.

Image credits: Claude Monet (France, 1840–1926), Monte Carlo vu de Roquebrune (Monte Carlo Seen from Roquebrune), 1884, oil on canvas, 25 7/8 x 32 inches. Portland Museum of Art, Maine.

*Letter from Renoir to Durand-Ruel, Lionello Venturi, ed., Les Archives de L’Impressionnisme. Lettres de Renoir, Monet, Pissarro, Sisley et Autres, vol. 1 (Paris: Durand-Ruel, Éditeurs, 1939), pp. 126-7. “Nous avons jugé qu’il était préférable de bien étudier le pays pour y retourner et savoir de suite où s’arrêter. Nous avons tout vu ou presque depuis Marseille jusqu’à Gênes. Tout est superbe. Des horizons dont on n’a aucune idée. Ce soir les montagnes étaient roses…Jusqu’à present nous avons sali des toiles et usé de belles couleurs.”