Published: January 5, 2016
PORTLAND, MAINE — The Portland Museum of Art (PMA) announced two new major acquisitions: “An Open Window,” an 1872 painting by Winslow Homer, and “River Cove,” a 1958 painting by Andrew Wyeth. Both paintings will be on view January 22 at 4 pm, when the PMA reopens after a brief closure as part of the multiyear project, Your Museum, Reimagined, which is focused on improving access to the museum’s collection.
“An Open Window” is one of a series of four paintings that Homer created in 1872 that features a solitary woman dressed in black, facing away from the viewer. The unknown woman is standing in a modest room, looking out onto a bright landscape likely inspired by Homer’s summer travels that year to Ulster County, N.Y. The bold differentiation between the dimly lit interior in the foreground and the light-saturated landscape in the background reveals Homer’s aesthetic experimentation at a crucial moment in his career, and his close observation of such European old masters as Johannes Vermeer.
In addition to the PMA’s Winslow Homer Studio in Prouts Neck, Maine, the museum has exceptional strength in its holdings of Homer’s work. “An Open Window” fills an important gap, as it is the first oil painting in the collection from this particular decade, and therefore bridges the PMA’s collection of early Homer oil paintings, such as his 1863 “Sharpshooter,” with the artist’s later paintings, such as his 1894 “Weatherbeaten.” The painting is a partial gift from an anonymous family with deep roots in Maine, and a partial purchase with funds from an anonymous foundation.
“River Cove,” a 1958 tempera painting by Andrew Wyeth is regularly identified by art historians as among his most important and impressive artworks. Andrew Wyeth, the son of American painter N.C. Wyeth and the father of artist Jamie Wyeth, cited Winslow Homer as an influence, and used both watercolors and tempera to create what he called “Homeric” landscapes.
The painting of a small jetty outside the artist’s home in Cushing, Maine, is devoid of human presence, yet includes subtle indication of the presence of birds and aquatic life. Its most extraordinary feature is its near-inversion of landscape imagery: the majority of the peaceful landscape view appears upside down, with the forest reflected in calm waters. The painting, which has been on view at the PMA regularly since 1992 and has been loaned to many major exhibitions of Wyeth’s work, was donated by David Rockefeller in memory of his son, Richard Rockefeller, who lived in Falmouth, Maine, until his tragic death in 2014.
The Portland Art Museum is at 1219 SW Park Avenue. The museum is closed through Thursday, January 21. For information, 503-226-2811 or www.portlandmuseum.org.
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