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Portland Museum of Art opens Winslow Homer’s Studio to the public

By Anulfo Baez

October 09, 2012   

In Maine, the year 2012 has been unofficially designated as the year of Winslow Homer. On September 25, 2012, after a nearly five year, $2.8 million dollar restoration, the Portland Museum of Art opened for the first time to the public the Prouts Neck Studio of Boston-born artist Winslow Homer. Purchased from Homer’s great grand-nephew in 2006, Prouts Neck served as Homer’s studio from 1883 until his death in 1910.

Considered one of the most important American Realist painters of 19th century, Homer began his career as an illustrator of images of the Civil War. Early last year, the Boston Public Library mounted an impressive exhibition of 50 illustrations by Homer created between 1858 and 1873. It was complemented by an online gallery of 120 illustrations created for Harper’s Weekly and 35 prints owned by the Boston Public Library which were also digitized and uploaded to their Flickr page.

The grand opening of Homer’s studio also coincides with Weatherbeaten: Winslow Homer and Maine, an exhibition of 38 masterpieces created during the final decades of the artist’s life. The exhibition is on view through December 30, 2012.

The Portland Museum of Art has raised $10.8 million in a national capital campaign to support the acquisition, preservation, interpretation, and endowment of the Homer Studio. The Studio opening has been a buzz on Twitter for a couple of weeks now, but not without criticism.

Much of the criticism on Twitter and comments on blogs stem from the museum’s decision to charge $55 per person to tour the newly renovated National Historic Landmark ($30 for members). Will Cary, Director of Member Services responded to one of my followers' tweets saying: "A guard, van driver & trained docent for 2.5 hours. Just covering our costs & it’s $30 as a member. Almost sold out, too."

The museum is allowed 3 groups of 10 people per day in order to minimize the negative impacts on the historic building. Historic house museums across the country are struggling to survive in this economy, but many are getting by charging a more accessible admission fee. The Phillip Johnson Glass House in New Canaan CT, an architectural icon of the modern movement charges $45 per person for a two hour tour which includes transportation to the Glass House from the visitor center, interiors of the Glass House, the Painting Gallery, Sculpture Gallery and Da Monsta—an architectural experiment completed in 1995 (more tour price options are available with varying amenities). Here in Massachusetts, the admission fee to visit the Gropius House in Lincoln is $10 per person for an hour tour. While the $55 admission fee to tour the Winslow Homer Studio may limit those who would like to see it but can't afford it, the museum's annual membership rates are quite affordable, starting at just $50 for an individual membership.

About Author

Anulfo AKA The Evolving Critic is a preservationist and blogger with a strong interest in architectural history, urbanism, and the parallels between fashion and architecture. He holds degrees in Tourism Planning and Development from the University of New Hampshire and in the History of Art and Architecture from Boston University. Anulfo has written for the Boston Society of Architects and the National Trust for Historic Preservation. He oversaw BR&S's blog, Our Daily Red, from 2012-14.

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