Just outside of Portland, Maine, the oceanside studio where artist Winslow Homer painted some of his most memorable works is open to visitors on tours arranged through the Portland Museum of Art.
The studio overlooks the rockbound shoreline on a point known as Prouts Neck, where Homer’s brother had a summer home. While visiting his brother in the summer of 1883, Homer fell in love with the craggy, wind- and wave-swept shore. He converted a small carriage barn on his brother’s property into a studio, where he lived and painted every summer until his death in 1910.
The studio where he lived and worked is simple and small, the original mansard-roofed carriage house still clearly visible beneath later additions. Homer expanded the second floor and added a covered upstairs porch that gave him a view over the ocean. To the rear of the original building he added a painting room (he sometimes referred to it as “the factory”), where he worked on many of his later paintings.
Although none of his paintings hangs in the studio, visitors get a real sense of the artist’s working environment and the sea that was so often his muse. Restoration was so meticulously done that Homer’s pencil writing can still be read on the walls, including the phrase “Oh, What a grand friend chance can be when it chooses.”
The studio is not furnished as Homer left it, but his easel stands as it did by the window with his paint box, and elsewhere are actual props he used in his paintings. On a newspaper rack hang reproduction pages of Harpers Weekly, where he illustrated events of the time. On the mantle is a sign he made to discourage drop-in female visitors who came to watch him paint, its message: “Snakes—Snakes—Mice!”
To see his paintings, visit the Portland Museum of Art, where collections include some of Homer’s best-known works. The museum is currently closed, please see the website for updates. Tours of the studio begin there and are by advance reservation only. A museum van takes small groups to Prouts Neck, where visitors have a guided tour and can watch the crashing waves and surging sea that Homer relished there and often painted into his masterpieces.
After a Maine lobster roll or a bowl of ale-steamed mussels on the veranda of the Black Point Inn, you can walk the cliff path around Prouts Neck to see more of the coast that Winslow Homer loved to paint.
By Stillman Rogers
World Correspondent, Destinations