Wednesday, February 12, 2014

A Tour of Winslow Homer's Studio in Maine

The Portland Museum of Art recently acquired Winslow Homer's studio in Maine and restored the house to its near original state. It was first a carriage house on Homer's family estate before he renovated to be his live-in-studio. I had imagined this late 19th century painter residing on the remote coast, but even back then, Prouts Neck was a summer resort for city people.

Homer spent the winter in his New York City studio, but a natural recluse, he preferred the isolation of Maine. His studio home was fenced without a gate, and there were no windows facing the road since he didn't want the public peering in or visiting him. Winslow Homer makes me look like an extrovert.

This is his studio from the inside. The few windows faced away from the street. We wondered why he didn't install opaque glass on the roadside walls as it was quite dark inside. My daughter and I went on a museum tour of his studio in December before it was shut for the winter. It will reopen in April, but you can only visit on a museum tour.

The main living area was rustically cozy but not exactly inviting. Over the fireplace is a sign that he hung on his outer fence, warning intruders of snakes and mice! On the walls are photos and objects that he collected on his journeys. There were odd notes of his carved into the wood panels.

His original bedroom has now been converted into a tiny kitchen.

The new bathroom is much more luxurious than it would have been during his tenure.

Upstairs is his original attic studio, which later became his bedroom when he added that nearly windowless studio downstairs. The attic was quite dark too.

Our tour guide believed that a boat builder might have done the original work on the carriage house conversion. Doesn't the ceiling remind you of being inside a tall ship?

My favorite architectural element was the covered porch overlooking the ocean. It would be easier to paint stormy seas under this protection.

I was amused to see that Winslow Homer edited out neighboring houses and suburban development. I often remove houses and roads or shift trees in my paintings too.

Even on a foggy winter day, the porch view was superb. I recognized the rocky coast that I'd seen in his paintings. On a nice day, you can walk along the cliff path. It was closed during our visit due to freezing rain. My 16-year-old daughter and I highly recommend the tour. Our guide was entertaining and well informed. The bus leaves from the museum in Portland. You should reserve tickets in advance.

From this studio visit, I've gained a new perspective of an artist who inspires both my art and my writing. A character in my work in process is named after Winslow Homer and there is an art studio modeled after his. Homer's coastal landscapes inspired my photo essay of islands in snow and my watercolors too.

Weather Watch: Another big storm is coming tomorrow with 8-12 inches of snow predicted! I'm hoping for snow only and no rain/sleet. It's hard to imagine on this sunny day. Happy Winter!


A Cuban In London said...

Stunning interiors. I'm attracted to old houses with wooden floors and that same type of beams. It looks like a lovely place to visit. Thanks for the tour.

Greetings from London.

Gloria Baker said...

what lovely pictures and tour Sarah!
Really love old house!!!:)

tina said...

It is a wonderful place. I can imagine him here painting those stormy sea scenes he is so famous for. I grew up loving his work maybe because I lived in Maine. Down here no one has ever heard of him.

David Cranmer said...

I may never get there but thanks so much for the tour, Sarah. And I agree on the beauty of that covered porch.

khaki said...

Thanks for the tour!! I could sit on that porch with a cup of coffee for hours and be so content!! Love the last shot by the way- beautiful!!!!!! 8-12 inches of snow- oh my. We get one half of an inch and our city shuts down. Ha! Probably better- no one here knows how to drive in that.

Donna said...

What a unique house! I really like that porch. What a wonderful place to spend time and to paint from. I like being an introvert, but I think I may have gone crazy if I were as isolated as he made himself!

Rose said...

I always imagined that artists would have studios with floor-to-ceiling windows and filled with light. Perhaps he spent most of his time on the porch with the lovely view. Hope you get just snow--we're supposed to get some ice today, ugh!

Amanda Summer said...

The studio has a certain Amish appeal to it as well as a hint of Frank Lloyd Wright. And you can't beat the name Prouts Neck.

troutbirder said...

Along with only a couple of others one of my favorite American artists. Most interesting tour of where he lived and worked. It helps to explain a lot...

Sarah Laurence said...

ACIL & Gloria, a friend of mine knows the family that used to rent his studio as a summer house.

Tina, I loved Winslow Homer even back when I was growing up in NYC. I’m pleased to hear you love his work too. He does capture Maine so well. Perhaps that was the first hint that I’d be happy living in Maine.

David, Kacky, I want that porch too.

Donna, I got the sense that WH acted crazy to get the peace he needed to be creative.

Rose, wintery mix in our forecast ended up being more snow so I hope the same was so for you. Unfortunately an ice storm is due Friday.

Amanda, the remodel would have predated Frank Lloyd Wright but I do see some Craftsman style in both. Maine has some great names. One of my favorite road names is Fiddler’s Reach.

Troutbirder, I’m pleased to learn you’re a fan of WH too.

Les said...

Homer was one of the first artists I came to appreciate as a child, and I still enjoy his work. Though I have not been to his studio, photos always left me puzzled that the building lacked abundant windows, especially from one of the country's most noted landscape/seascape painters. The covered porch somewhat eases my puzzlement.

Tricia J. O'Brien said...

What fun to take this virtual tour. I love historic places, particularly those connected with artists and writers.