PMA Announces Acquisitions of Paintings by Homer and Andrew Wyeth

HomerWinslow Homer (United States, 1836-1910), An Open Window, 1872, oil on canvas, 17 7/8” x 13 7/8”.  Portland Museum of Art, Maine. Partial gift from an anonymous Maine family and partial museum purchase with funds from an anonymous foundation, 2015.21.

WyethAndrew Wyeth (United States, 1917–2009), River Cove, 1958, tempera on masonite, 48 x 30 5/16 inches. Portland Museum of Art, Maine. Gift of David Rockefeller in honor of his son, Richard Rockefeller, 2015.16.

Portland, Maine (January 1, 2016)—The Portland Museum of Art (PMA) announces 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, 2016 at 4 p.m., 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 (project details below).

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, New York. 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.

“An Open Window represents a moment in Homer’s career after the Civil War, but before his time in England,” explained Jessica May, the PMA’s Chief Curator. “It’s a transformative addition to the PMA’s Homer collection, both in terms of period and subject matter, and will help the museum to demonstrate the ways in which Winslow Homer was very much an exceptional artist, one who was responsive to his own moment in American art history. It will also allow the PMA to draw parallels between Homer and his peers. One of the most exciting aspects of this acquisition is that the painting itself is virtually unknown to contemporary viewers, as it has not been on view to the public since 1938.”

In addition, the PMA has acquired River Cove, a 1958 tempera painting by Andrew Wyeth that 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.

“We are incredibly honored and grateful to David Rockefeller for his generous gift and his acknowledgment of the PMA as a fitting place to honor his son’s memory,” said PMA Director Mark Bessire. “Through these important additions to the PMA’s collection, by two of the world’s most significant artists, the museum is demonstrating its commitment to improving the visual arts in the region, and defining a new standard for museums of its size.”

For more information or to schedule an interview, please contact Jennifer Cook, Director of Media and Civic Relations, at jcook@portlandmuseum.org or at (207) 699-4094.