Taking in the art at the Portland Museum of Art.

Taking in the art at the Portland Museum of Art.

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History of Maine Art

Not all American pioneers of the early 1880s followed their dreams west. Some, of an equally adventurous but more artistic calling, followed the whispers of their souls north. It was the beginning of a legendary migration of artists to Maine, drawn by the state’s physical beauty, timeless essence and the magical quality of its light. The rest is history. American art history.

“One of the great things about Maine is that you can actually trace the history of American art in this one state,” says Carl Little, Maine writer and art historian.

We had a chance to tour the Portland Museum of Art with Carl for a unique perspective on the Art of Maine. We asked Carl what inspired so many artists from New York, Massachusetts and Pennsylvania to not only come to Maine but, for many, to permanently plant their easels here.

“I think that Winslow Homer and his fellow painters were drawn to the reality,” Carl offered. “There was something almost primal about the landscape in Maine, of the waves on the rocks, of being on the edge which attracted them.”

As for naming his Mount Rushmore of Maine artists, we quickly learned we would need a bigger mountain. Maine’s legendary Mount Katahdin came to mind. So, too, did a flurry of some of the most celebrated names in the history of American art.

“I would begin with Frederick Church, Thomas Cole and Fitz Henry Lane,” Carl enthused. “Then I would move to the twentieth century. You have incredible painters such as John Marin, Edward Hopper, Marsden Hartley. You have some of the great family dynasties. The Wyeths – N.C. Wyeth and then Andrew Wyeth and, today, Jamie Wyeth.”

For more of the living history of Maine Art you can join our tour group by watching the video above or exploring more of Maine’s bustling art scene here.

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