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Posted: August 25, 2014

A brief guide to some of Maine’s best art museums

Written by: mainetoday freelancer

By: Elizabeth Margolis-Pineo

Old Man Playing Solitaire by Duane Hanson, circa 1973, stood out in the new Alfond-Lunder Pavillion of the Colby College Art Museum in Waterville back in 2013. Portland Press Herald file photo by Gordon Chibroski.

Old Man Playing Solitaire by Duane Hanson, circa 1973, stood out in the new Alfond-Lunder Pavillion of the Colby College Art Museum in Waterville back in 2013. Portland Press Herald file photo by Gordon Chibroski.

Maine’s magnificent museums draw visitors from here, there and everywhere to explore a world of art – from the quirky to the sublime.


Bowdoin College Museum of Art

The Bowdoin College Museum in Brunswick is one of America’s oldest college art collections. This Maine treasure includes over 15,000 European, American, modern and contemporary works, plus prints, drawings and photography.

The dramatic renovation and expansion of its historic building now connects to campus architecture through a dramatic entryway – an inviting, modern glass “box.” Interior gallery spaces have been renovated as well with new galleries that feature rotating selections from the permanent collection, and ever-changing exhibitions from museums and collections around the world.

Don’t miss the “Contemporary Masters” show with its mad, midcentury energy. Exciting exhibitions, public programs, lectures and symposia draw visitors from here, there and everywhere to this outstanding museum.

The Bowdoin College Museum of Art
Walker Art Building
9400 College Station
Brunswick, Maine 04011-8494


Bates College Museum of Art

The Bates College Museum of Art in Lewiston is known for its collection of the city’s most famous native son, Marsden Hartley. The museum’s impressive collection includes iconic European painters like Paul Cézanne, Henri Matisse, Pablo Picasso, and Georges Rouault, plus distinguished Americans Mary Cassatt, John Marin, John Sloan, and George Bellows.

The current exhibition, “Encountering Maine,” is drawn from the permanent collection and includes works depicting places in Maine by artists from the late 19th century to the present in a variety of media and styles by Maine natives such as Marsden Hartley, Bernard Langlais, William Manning, Charlie Hewitt and Melonie Bennett, plus works by artists who are recognized for their connections to the state, like Dahlov Ipcar, Berenice Abbott and Robert Indiana.

Bates College Museum of Art
Olin Arts Center
75 Russell Street
Lewiston, ME 04240


Colby College Museum of Art

The Colby College Museum of Art in Waterville also has an outstanding collection of American art, plus an impressive stash of American folk art. The galleries feature heavy-hitters John Singleton Copley, Gilbert Stuart, Charles Willson Peale, Winslow Homer, William Merritt Chase, Mary Cassatt, Robert Henri, Paul Manship and Georgia O’Keeffe. The museum has over 200 prints by James McNeill Whistler.

The Colby museum showcases the work of important 20th-century artists who lived or worked in Maine, including John Marin, George Bellows, Fairfield Porter, Marsden Hartley and my personal favorite, Alex Katz, who donated more than 700 works to this wonderful museum. Sculpture by Richard Serra and Sol LeWitt, as well as works by Adolph Gottlieb, Rudy Burckhardt, Chuck Close, Jennifer Bartlett, and Elizabeth Murray round out this significant contemporary collection.

The current exhibition of Maine-born Bernard Langlais must not be missed. Best-known for his monumental animal sculptures in various media, this beloved native son left his quirky, indelible stamp on Maine art.

Colby College Museum of Art
5600 Mayflower Hill
Waterville, Maine 04901


Farnsworth Art Museum

In Rockland sits another Maine jewel, The Farnsworth Art Museum. The permanent collection, “Maine in America,” is a veritable who’s-who of 18th- and 19th-century American art with works by Gilbert Stuart, Thomas Sully, Thomas Eakins, Eastman Johnson, Fitz Hugh Lane, Frank Benson, Childe Hassam and Maurice Prendergast. The museum’ collection of sculpture by Rockland native, Louise Nevelson, is a delight.

The Wyeth Center features America’s first family of art with works by Andrew, N.C. and Jamie Wyeth. The historic Farnsworth Homestead and Olson House round out this distinguished complex. Four new galleries showcase contemporary artists like Will Barnet, Jennifer Bartlett, Janet Fish, Robert Indiana, Alex Katz, Sylvia Mangold, Kenneth Noland, Leon Polk Smith, my old pal Neil Welliver, and more.

I recently enjoyed “The Shakers” exhibition on the recommendation of Jim and Nance Brown of Windsor Chairs in Lincolnville. What fun to see their beautifully crafted, comfortable designs as “art.”

Farnsworth Art Museum
16 Museum Street
Rockland, ME 04841


Portland Museum of Art

The reigning queen of the Arts District, the Portland Museum of Art is composed of the magnificent McLellan House, the L. D. M. Sweat galleries and modern Charles Shipman Payson Building, where Portland residents and visitors enjoy 20th- and 21st-century masterworks by Dale Chihuly, Stuart Davis, Marsden Hartley, Robert Indiana, Neil Welliver, the Wyeths and many more.

Explore the elegant McLellan House with its collection of sculpture, paintings and decorative works by 19th-century pioneers like Frederic Church, Winslow Homer, John Singer Sargent and Louis Comfort Tiffany. Tour the restored Winslow Homer Studio in Prouts Neck, a magical experience (by reservation 207-775-6148).

The PMA’s who’s-who of European titans includes Courbet, Renoir, Monet, Cassatt, Degas, Gauguin, Rodin, Picasso, Braque, Matisse, Kandinsky, Klee, Kollwitz, Léger, Ernst and Magritte – I’m still astonished when I meander through this brilliant, world-class collection.

From lectures, films, special programs and tours, this regal doyenne is always worth a visit.

Portland Museum of Art
Seven Congress Square
Portland, Maine 04101


The Ogunquit Museum of American Art

Last but not least is my favorite Maine museum, the Ogunquit Museum of American art. The OMAA’s permanent collection includes members of Ogunquit’s famous early 20th century art colony – Will Barnet, Margaret Bourke-White, Charles Burchfield, Charles Demuth, Marsden Hartley, Edward Hopper, Wolf Kahn, Jacob Lawrence, Roy Lichtenstein, John Marin, and Augustus Saint-Gaudens – carefully collected and curated by Henry Strater to great and lasting effect.

This coastal gem is often described as “the most beautiful little museum in the world,” and I agree. Approaching the building, visitors look directly through the glass walls of its main gallery to the craggy cove and ocean beyond. Surrounded by green, tranquil acres on Narrow Cove, the sculpture garden includes works by William Zorach, John Flannagan and Bernard Langlais.

Don’t miss the current exhibition, “Tradition and Excellence,” highlighting outstanding examples of modern and contemporary art with works by Walt Kuhn, Marsden Hartley, Peggy Bacon and Charles Burchfield.

Note: I once said in these pages that this museum is “a lovely place to picnic,” but please remember that picnicking is not allowed on the grounds of the Ogunquit Museum of Art – as inviting as it is.

Ogunquit Museum of American Art
543 Shore Road
P.O. Box 815
Ogunquit, Maine 03907


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