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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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2 Comments

  1. A CLIFF WALK
    ON
    PROUT’S NECK

    By P.T. Clark

    “The inner self is a sanctuary where stillness and calm chasten the mind through discourse.”

    I

    Have you ever been to Scarborough, Maine?
    Enjoyed the lobster, clams, and chowder
    Its gnarly rocky shore and pebbles tell its story
    Along with lobster men’s bravery
    And struggle to wrest a living from the sea.
    The late summer’s fresh and salty air, the clear nights,
    The light, the atmosphere, and topography—Liberate!
    The ambient sound of nature surrounds you
    And creates meditation and heightened imagination
    Provoked by the harshness of its shore,
    And winter’s solitude and frigid contemplation
    As a tempestuous rocky shore and breaking surf splash and thunder
    Continue a gnarly story and a knowing without thinking.

    A harvest moon rises over Prout’s Neck
    The tide is high, the shore glows black and silver,
    Moon light gleams upon a calm sea
    Only, from the line of spray
    Where the waves meet the dark rock shore
    Listen! You’ll hear the roar
    Of grating pebbles, the waves suck back
    Then flinging again at their return upon the shore
    Begin, and cease, and then again begin,
    With tremulous cadence slow, and bring
    The eternal note of hope in,
    A turbid ebb and flow of human energy,
    We find in the sound a thought
    Hearing it by a distant sea.

    II

    The sea of hope
    Was once, too, at the full, and round Maine’s shore
    Lay like the folds of a bright girdle furl’d
    But now only hear its encouraging, long optimistic roar
    To another era captured by an artist’s Weatherbeaten
    The hardy hermit of Prout’s Neck
    Was resolute in his quest, a salty stoic on the Point’s rocks
    Saw the ocean in many perspectives,
    Captured Maine’s foul weather,
    Its lashing rain, a hurling sea exploding against the rocks
    A solid image of a gritty character.

    The grit of his self-interest
    Defined whom he was going-it-alone
    His self-reliance, the promise of a self-connected
    Unlocked his real potential
    And the common good prevailed throughout his art.

    III

    The Cliff Walk is a gift.
    We see what the Prout’s Neck salty stoic saw and painted.
    The crashing waves, the thunderous thumps against the rocks
    Surging sounds in nooks and crannies around this massive rocky shore
    An uninterrupted moment in time
    We experienced what Winslow Homer painted
    And paused to watch the ducks and loons alee.
    A time warp of reclusive privacy.

    Winslow Homer’s stoic wisdom cultivated his common humanity
    Without your notice or your thanks
    Nature doesn’t care if we live or die
    Yet, the Cliff Walk transcends it
    With its concentrated gnarly path requiring levelheadness
    Assisting the other without fear or rage
    Each respecting the other to complete
    With reasoned cooperation and selflessness.

    IV

    The Prow at Black Point Inn an elegantly rounded porch
    Overlooks a row of white Adirondacks on a well-mown lawn
    Looking out at Saco Bay and an ebbing tide
    The sun is setting to our left
    Seated watching it change colors of the day
    To bright orange and a pink hue along the black horizon
    Declares the day is through
    But another awaits our rest,

    So,

    Let us go then, you and I
    Let us go through certain recollections
    That recall its odds and ends and finds a friend
    And a world to be so wonderful to end such a peaceful day.

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