A Significant Winslow Homer Exhibition Celebrates the Opening of His Studio Next September at the Portland Museum of Art

  • PORTLAND, Maine
  • /
  • July 16, 2012

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Winslow Homer, Weatherbeaten, 1894, Portland Museum of Art, Maine. Bequest of Charles Shipman Payson. Photo by meyersphoto.com

In celebration of the opening of the newly restored Winslow Homer Studio, the Portland Museum of Art will showcase the exhibition Weatherbeaten: Winslow Homer and Maine. On view September 22 through December 30, 2012, the exhibition features more than 35 major works painted during Homer’s tenure in the Studio (1883-1910) from museums throughout the country, including the Art Institute of Chicago, the Smithsonian American Art Museum, and The Sterling and Francine Clark Art Institute.

Weatherbeaten will not only celebrate the completion of the Studio’s restoration, but will serve as a lasting record of the research that guided the project and an opportunity to introduce new perspectives on Homer’s life and late work. The exhibition takes its title from Homer’s masterpiece Weatherbeaten (1894), in the Portland Museum of Art’s collection. Weatherbeaten, unlike High Cliff, Coast of Maine (1894, Smithsonian American Art Museum), or West Point, Prouts Neck (1900, Sterling and Francine Clark Art Institute), tellingly carries an adjective for a title. In this way, Homer declared Weatherbeaten a special work, embedding in it the timeless process of wave and rain striking the Maine coast.  Many of these works have not been on exhibition in Maine for a more than a generation and, due to their extraordinary rarity and importance in the history of American art, will not be seen together again for decades to come.

The exhibition checklist is a short course in Homer’s powers of observation. There are lyrical meditations on the environment in all seasons such as The West Wind (1891, Addison Gallery of American Art, Phillips Academy), as well as narrative masterpieces such as The Fisher Girl (1894, Mead Art Museum, Amherst College). The paintings graphically demonstrate Homer’s ability to darkly paint a narrative but leave the final chapter to the viewer’s imagination. Some, such as The  West Wind, are time-honored scenes of female constancy, women waiting by the sea for the return of husbands, sons, and lovers. Others are a new model of marine painting, seeking to impress the viewer with the variety, capriciousness, and awe-inspiring power of the Atlantic Ocean as witnessed from the Studio.

The relationship between Winslow Homer (1836-1910) and the Portland Museum of Art is long-standing and intimate—indeed Homer exhibited at the Museum in 1893 and his legacy runs throughout the history of the institution. In 1976 Charles Shipman Payson pledged his collection of 17 paintings and watercolors by Homer and an endowment that led to the construction of the Charles Shipman Payson building, which is the public face of the Museum. The Museum’s Homer collection also includes such notable objects as his first oil painting, Sharpshooter; an original watercolor paint box; and a nearly comprehensive collection of 400 illustrations given to the Museum by the Osher family in 1991. The graphics collection includes more than 90% of Homer’s graphic output and chronicles the artist’s early career as a commercial illustrator. In 2006, the Museum purchased Homer’s studio at Prouts Neck, located 12 miles from the Museum, from Homer’s great grand-nephew. The restored Studio will open to the public on September 24, 2012.

Weatherbeaten: Winslow Homer and Maine is organized by Thomas Denenberg, former Chief Curator at the Portland Museum of Art and Director of Shelburne Museum, Shelburne, Vermont. The exhibition is accompanied by a catalogue to be published by Yale University Press and will include essays by Thomas Denenberg; James F. O’Gorman, Professor Emeritus at Wellesley College; Marc Simpson, Associate Director of the Williams College Graduate Program in Art History; and Erica Hirshler, Croll Senior Curator at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston.

Tags: American art

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