Weatherbeaten

Winslow Homer, On the Lee Shore, 1900. Created in his studio at Prouts Neck, Maine, where he lived and worked from 1882 until he died in 1910.

If any artist understood how to use weather as metaphor, Winslow Homer did. And so, on the day that Frankenstorm is bearing down on the East Coast, writing about Homer’s waterfront studio, which has recently been renovated by the Portland Museum of Art and has been open to the public since September, seems appropriate. According to Clarke Canfield’s AP news report, Homer left New York and moved to his family’s estate in Maine where he lived in a remodeled carriage house that had an unobstracted view of the ocean. Already an accomplished artist,

it was here where he
created his well-known works focusing on man versus nature, showing the
angry tumultuous ocean crashing against shore and weather-beaten
fishermen. After Homer died, the studio passed down among family members until
it was inherited by Homer’s great-grandnephew, Charles ‘Chip’ Homer
Willauer, who for many years lived in the studio in the summer months.

Willauer, 74, was concerned about the future of the building, worried
that it would deteriorate over time and be lost to future generations.
In 2006, he sold the structure to the Portland Museum of Art for $1.8
million. The museum spent $2.8 million renovating the structure, including
stabilizing the foundation, replacing the balcony, restoring a chimney,
replacing windows and returning the exterior to its original green with
brown trim. In all, the museum has raised $10.6 million in a fundraising
campaign to pay for the purchase and renovation, an endowment,
educational programs and exhibitions.
Willauer said he’s thrilled with the finished work and happy he
doesn’t have to worry about the future of a building that was
instrumental in Homer’s life.

But he’s not so sure his great-great-uncle
would have understood all the attention “I think that Winslow, who liked his privacy, would have been surprised by all the interest,” Willauer said outside the studio. 

Winslow Homer, Eight Bells, 1886, oil on canvas, 25 3/16 x 30 3/16 inches. Addison Gallery of American Art, Phillips Academy, Andover, Massachusetts, Gift of anonymous donor.

Here’s my favorite part of Canfield’s story, which I think is absolutely true. Museum Director Mark Bessire suggests that Maine changed the way Homer painted. “You have artist studios where artists worked, but then
you have artist studios where the place actually changed the artist.”

Left: Images of Homer’s renovated studio on Prout’s Neck. All images courtesy of the Portland Museum of Art.

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While making a pilgrimage to the studio this fall, also check out “Weatherbeaten: Winslow Homer in Maine,” an exhibition of Homer’s work on view at the Portland Museum through December 30, 2012. The show features paintings, watercolors, and etchings borrowed from private
collections and museums throughout the country– including the Art
Institute of Chicago, the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts , the Smithsonian American Art Museum,
and the Sterling and Francine Clark Art Institute.

Other artists’ studios I love that are open to the public:
Florence Griswold Museum (Old Lyme, Connecticut)
Weir Farm (Wilton, Connecticut)
Gustave Moreau (Paris)
Eugene Delacrox (Paris)
Jackson Pollock (Springs, New York)

Readers: If you know of others, please leave links in the Comments section. And stay safe today. Beware flying debris.

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