My wife and I recently returned from Portland, Maine after attending the opening of my two-person show with Leah Lopez at the Roux and Cyr International Fine Art Gallery.
We were able to spend a few extra days enjoying the area, especially Fort Williams Park, Two Lights State Park, and Crescent Beach State Park. All are uniquely special, yet located in close proximity to one another on Cape Elizabeth, just south of Portland. Edward Hopper (1882-1967) depicted one of the lighthouses at Two Lights in his famous painting: “The Lighthouse at Two Lights”.
A big surprise was to discover the Portland Museum of Art in West Portland…within walking distance of where we were staying. Being home to more than 17000 objects of art dating from the 18th Century to present, it has the largest collection of European works in Maine.
Margaret Jane Mussey Sweat was instrumental in founding what has become a wonderful museum. She donated her three-story mansion and additional funds in memory of her late husband, US Representative Lorenzo de Medici Sweat. (How do you like that name?) The memorial gallery opened in 1911.
Over the years a number of important collections have been donated, initiated by Maine native, Charles Shipman Payson. He donated 17 Winslow Homer paintings, plus eight million dollars. His contribution was the spark needed to enable expansion to the current facility which opened in 1983.
I immensely enjoyed the works of Albert Bierstadt, Frederic Church, Thomas Cole, Stanford Gifford, Walter Griffin, Winslow Homer, John Kensett, Claude Monet, William Paxton, Camille Pissarro, Auguste Renoir, John Singer Sargent, Albert Sisley, N.C. Wyeth, and many others.
Two artists especially stood out for me. They were Edwin Lord Weeks, of whom I was not familiar, and Dennis Miller Bunker.
Edwin Lord Weeks (American, 1849-1903) was born in Boston of affluent parents involved in the spice and tea business. With their encouragement, Weeks was able to study in Paris. He had applied for acceptance to the Jean Gerome Atelier in the Ecole Des Beaux-Arts, but while waiting for approval he began working in the private atelier of Leon Bonnat. He grew so fond of working with Bonnat that when acceptance came from Gerome’s atelier, he turned it down.
He traveled extensively and became one of the most celebrated of the American Orientalists. He was small in stature, a man of quiet reserve. It is believed he died after contracting an illness in India.
Dennis Miller Bunker (American, 1861-1890) had a very short life of only 29 years but is one of America’s greatest artists. He was born in New York and studied with William Merritt Chase, and later in Paris with Jean Louis Gerome. He was innately gifted as a plein air painter but he lacked confidence, wealth, and the social graces necessary to succeed as an artist. John Singer Sargent and Isabella Stewart Gardner so believed in him that they were a huge support in helping him get established.
He spent his summers painting in Medfield, MA, and the rest of the year in New York or Boston painting portraits. He was highly regarded during his lifetime, but like Weeks, was pretty much forgotten after his death.
He had only been married to his wife for three months before dying of cerebro-spinal meningitis. Sargent wondered, upon losing his close friend, “if anyone had a greater affection for him than I.”
John Pototschnik is an Art Renewal Center Associate Living Master
To view his art and bio, please click HERE