The highlight of a recent trip to Maine was the Winslow Homer Studio, which sits on a hill at Prout’s Neck, and above the rocky coast that often appears in his paintings. As we walked along the path overlooking the sea and heard the commentary of the knowledgeable guide, I gained a much deeper understanding of his life there.
The Portand Art Museum has a tour that takes visitors in a minibus from the museum to the site. By the way, don’t make the half-hour drive from the city expecting to gain admission. Also make reservations several weeks ahead of time. Only those with a registered group are allowed onto the grounds. Before the excellent narrated tour, all I knew was that I was enraptured with his paintings of boys managing sailboats in the fierce waves. By the end of the visit I had learned a lot more about the dimensions of his life.
The waves were choppy on the day we visited, but not turbulent as in many of the paintings. It was easy to imagine him sketching at an easel on the rocks or up on the rooftop. His ladder, or a facsimile, still stands propped up outside a second floor window.
Inside, the studio is furnished sparsely, in the manner he lived. Treasuring solitude, he facetiously drew scary signs on the mantel of the fireplace. Those images remain.
Displays of family pictures and articles illustrating his life are spread about for visitors to read. The wooden caned couch where he napped is still against the wall. His tiny bedroom is now used by staff. Though the room is no longer filled with easels and paintings, there is a palpable sense of an artist at work.
Homer worked in New York City as a magazine illustrator for many years before he came here and worked fulltime as an artist. The studio had been the carriage house on his family’s property..