Artist Studios: Homer, Wyeth and Langlais
On a map, the line outlining the harbors, beaches and cliffs of Maine’s coast is jagged, meandering and broken. The line connecting three of the artists most inspired by this coast—Winslow Homer, Andrew Wyeth and Bernard Langlais—is much more direct. But you’ll still need a map if you plan on visiting their studios.
Winslow Homer’s Prouts Neck Studio
Critics agree that the mostly self-taught Winslow Homer truly came into his own as a painter when he relocated permanently from New York City to Scarborough, Maine, around 1884. His studio in Prouts Neck was a converted carriage house perched only a few dozen feet from the rocky shore, with its enclosed second-story balcony offering panoramic views of the Atlantic. Homer lived and worked here in this small space until his death in 1910, drawing inspiration for notable works like Eight Bells and The Gulf Stream from his daily walks along the coast and its ever-changing weather. The studio was declared a National Historic Landmark in 1966. It was bought and renovated by the Portland Museum of Art in 2006. Guided tours are available.
Andrew Wyeth and the Olson House
Twenty years after Homer’s death, acclaimed illustrator N.C. Wyeth christened his family’s summer home in Port Clyde as “Eight Bells,” in honor of Homer’s painting. Like Homer, Wyeth built a small studio at the water’s edge, which he later shared with his son, Andrew, who would go on to become one of America’s most celebrated artists. Andrew Wyeth's early watercolor landscapes were greatly influenced by the work of Winslow Homer, but Wyeth’s best-known work is the 1948 painting Christina’s World. In it, Wyeth depicts his neighbor, Christina Olson, lying in a field looking up at a gray house on the horizon.
Located in Cushing, Maine, the Olson House was a frequent subject of his work; he even used an upstairs room as a studio. According to Wyeth, “In the portraits of that house, the windows are eyes or pieces of the soul almost ... I just couldn't stay away from there. I did other pictures while I knew them but I'd always seem to gravitate back to the house ... It was Maine." The Eight Bells studio is no more, but the Olson House is now a National Historic Landmark owned by the Farnsworth Art Museum in Rockland, which regularly curates exhibits of Wyeth’s work, as well as work by his father and his son, contemporary painter James Wyeth.
The Langlais Sculpture Preserve and Studio
Also in Cushing is the Langlais Sculpture Preserve, a nature and sculpture preserve celebrating Bernard “Blackie” Langlais’ artistic legacy and the natural resources of the Cushing peninsula. Langlais was born in Old Town, Maine, and studied at the Skowhegan School of Painting and Sculpture, as well as the Corcoran School of Art and the Brooklyn Museum Art School. Like Winslow Homer, Langlais left New York City for the inspiration of Maine’s coast. He purchased the Cushing property in the mid-1960s, creating more than 65 monumental wood sculptures on the land. The preserve, owned and operated by the Georges River Land Trust, remains home to several of these, including the larger-than-life Local Girl (Christina Olson), his homage to Andrew Wyeth’s iconic painting.
More than 3,000 pieces of Langlais’ work are scattered throughout the state’s museums, libraries, parks and schools as part of the Langlais Art Trail. In addition to the preserve and studio, other notable stops include the Colby College Museum of Art, the “Skowhegan Indian” and, conveniently for visitors, the Portland airport, home of Langlais’ “Playing Bears.”