Monthly Archives: August 2012

Winslow Homer and Prouts Neck

Winslow Homer first visited Prouts Neck in 1875. In 1883, his oldest brother Charles purchased the water side of the Neck with the hope of bringing the entire Homer family there and subdividing the property to create a summer resort. When the family learned that Winslow would be joining them on the Neck, they offered to construct a painting room at the rear of “the Ark,” the family home. Homer, who relished his solitude and independence, instead requested that the carriage house located near the main house be converted into a studio.

Bowdoin College Museum of Art, Brunswick, Maine, Gift of the Homer Family.

"The 'Ark' and Winslow Homer's Studio," Bowdoin College Museum of Art, Brunswick, Maine, Gift of the Homer Family.

Although conversion of the carriage house required only basic additions, the Homer family sought a professional architect. In 1883, the family engaged John Calvin Stevens (1855–1940), a Portland native now regarded as one of the founders of the Shingle Style. Stevens moved the carriage house 100 feet east of the Ark and constructed a monumental viewing porch, or “piazza,” on the second floor, facing the sea. Though modest in size and unpretentious in its decoration, the Studio was exactly what Homer wanted: a place of solitude and inspiration where he could focus his creative energies.

Homer prized the peace and privacy that enveloped Prouts Neck after the summer residents departed, and he enjoyed the panoramic drama of the changing seasons. From his piazza and the rocks below, Homer pursued his obsession with the remarkable light of Maine, the endless variations in the weather, and the visual effects of waves as they struck the ledges and cliffs. As the early Homer biographer William Downes stated, “Living at his studio allowed Homer to have a perpetual tête-à-tête with the ocean which beat upon the great ledges almost at his door. His moving there was to signal the creation of the most important sea pieces of his career.”

Bowdoin College Museum of Art, Brunswick, Maine, Gift of the Homer Family.

"Winslow Homer with 'The Gulf Stream' in his studio at Prout's Neck, Maine." Bowdoin College Museum of Art, Brunswick, Maine, Gift of the Homer Family.

During the two-and-a-half decades he spent at Prouts Neck, Homer created a series of paintings that are national treasures, including The Fog Warning (1885, Museum of Fine Arts, Boston), Lost on the Grand Banks (1886, collection of Bill and Melinda Gates), Undertow (1886, Sterling and Francine Clark Art Institute), Fox Hunt (1893, Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts), Weatherbeaten (1894, Portland Museum of Art), The Artist’s Studio in an Afternoon Fog (1894, Memorial Art Gallery of the University of Rochester), The Gulf Stream (1899, The Metropolitan Museum of Art), and Right and Left (1909, National Gallery of Art)—all masterpieces that established him as one of the most significant artists in American history.

Homer’s immersion in the environment of Prouts Neck produced images of the surf-battered coast that are the greatest in his career. These uninhabited images of crashing waves and rocks, alternately brooding and ecstatic, transformed the marine painting tradition with their emphatically humanistic vantage point and exploration of struggle and survival.

For more information about the Winslow Homer Studio, please click here or call (207) 775-6148.

Meet the Artist: The Ropes designer Shana Aldrich Ready

Shana Aldrich Ready is the design genius behind The Ropes, a jewelry line that elegantly morphs rough marine hardware into sleek, stylish bracelets and necklaces. With a loyal following (see customer photos here), and features in and Boston Magazine, we are excited to have products by this talented local designer in the Museum Store!

(Photography by Ellen Warfield)

Tell us about yourself and your business.
I’m originally from San Francisco, California, but my parents moved to Maine when I was five. I grew up in Kennebunkport, where my parents ran an inn (The Old Fort Inn) for 30 years. Ever since I was eight, I knew I wanted to become a fashion designer. I studied Apparel Design/ Fashion Design at Rhode Island School of Design and worked as an apparel designer in New York City and Boston. After some time away, I realized my true passion was to return to Maine and pursue a design career in the surroundings that I was most influenced by. Inspired by frequent trips to the beach with my son, Thomas, and my love of the ocean, I founded The Ropes—a line of hand-made accessories constructed from authentic marine ropes and hardware. It’s been fun to mix stylish trends with traditional materials from Maine’s marine culture.

What is your favorite part of what you do?
Being a designer in Maine. I really love Portland, it reminds me a lot of Providence where I went to college. I always had a very far-fetched dream of trying to bring my design skills and even harder yet, fashion designing skill, back to Maine. The Ropes has allowed me to do that.

What are some sources of inspiration for your work?
Maine, the ocean, and most importantly my son, Thomas. He is a constant source of inspiration by reminding me to look at things with an unbiased perspective.

Guilty pleasure?
My biggest guilty pleasure would be a delicious glass of wine or shopping. I also love scavenging the beach for its natural treasures. You never know what you are going to find.

Who is your favorite artist?
Holly Ready, not because we’re related, but because she truly captures the beauty of Maine like no other artist.

Bonjour Monet and Étretat!

By Margaret Burgess
Susan Donnell and Harry W. Konkel Associate Curator of European Art

2012 has been a tremendously exciting year for European art here at the Museum, with three exhibitions devoted to artists painting in Europe, and especially in France. With shows such as Edgar Degas: The Private Impressionist (February 23–May 28, 2012), From Portland to Paris: Mildred Burrage’s Years in France (April 21–July 15, 2012), and The Draw of the Normandy Coast, 1860–1960, currently on view in our main exhibition galleries (until September 3), the PMA demonstrates a strong commitment to the European agenda.

For the summer show, The Draw of the Normandy Coast, we are thrilled to have assembled four paintings by the great French master Claude Monet. Thanks to major loans from the Isabelle and Scott Black Collection, Philadelphia Museum of Art, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, and The Museum of Modern Art, we are treated to a fabulous quartet of masterworks by Monet.

Three of Monet’s paintings date from his time in Étretat, a small village along the French coast—northeast of the ports of Le Havre and Honfleur. Étretat is known for its dramatic rock formations and stony beach. Monet’s The Manneporte Seen from Below, circa 1884, which is generously on loan from the Isabelle and Scott Black Collection, is boldly displayed at the entrance to the exhibition, with the paintings from Philadelphia and New York prominently hung nearby. Monet descended on Éretat between 1883 and 1886, focusing on the Manneporte, or “Magna Porta” (“Great Gate”), the stunning rock formation that juts out into the English Channel. Étretat made a profound impression on Monet and the works that resulted are symphonies in blue with azure, turquoise, topaz—sublime and transfixing. As he wrote in a letter to Alice Hoschedé, “I can’t help myself from being seduced by these admirable cliffs.”

Assembling these impressive loans from this seminal series by Monet was a dream come true. They allow and invite one to take in the magnitude of Monet’s painting campaigns along the Normandy coast. Monet’s paintings are displayed in the first gallery surrounded by works showing Étretat by American and French artists including Gustave Courbet, Edgar Degas, George Inness, and Eugène-Louis Boudin. Looking around the gallery of these paintings of Étretat, we invite you to make your own comparisons and to explore how different artists, from Monet to the Maine artist Samuel Colman, looked at the same natural arches, cliffs, and coastline under different lighting conditions and from various vantage points.

This summer I had the fortunate opportunity to visit Étretat and to walk the same cliffs that Monet walked, and to study the graceful arch as he did. It is a spectacular place and my time there is forever sealed in my mind’s eye. I fully understand why Monet and so many artists were drawn there. The weather and lighting change dramatically there, as it does here in Maine, and no two glimpses of the cliffs and arches ever seem the same. When I was there in the morning, I felt as if the wind would sweep me off the cliff, and I heard the waves churn the stones on the beach with the tide. Later in the afternoon the sun shone and at night, the arches were specially lit up, creating a spectacular effect.

A rope crosses the steep path down to the Manneporte’s beach, so you can no longer go down the path that Monet and his colleagues once did. And with the tide coming in, I did not have quite the courage to go through the Trou a l’homme, a small tunnel in the rock that you can go through only at low tide in order to get from one beach to the next, as Monet did. But I did finally fully understand the paths that he would have taken and the power of the place. And though these paths were closed, my heart was open and full to the brim with an appreciation of the beauty of this and many special places along the Normandy coast!