Unexpected treasures are the finest kind.
The hidden jewel of the summer museum season in Maine may well be the Alfred Chadbourn exhibition of paintings at the Ogunquit Museum of American Art.
Chadbourn, who lived in Yarmouth and painted all over the world, was widely admired, but this is the first time his work has received the deeper consideration of a museum exhibition, Ogunquit director Ron Crusan said.
Crusan didn’t know a lot about Chadbourn when he was approached about the exhibition. A friend dropped off a painting instruction book that Chadbourn had written, with a hand-written note attached suggesting Chadbourn would be a worthy subject for a summer show.
Crusan was impressed. “He’s a good painter, but so are a lot of other people. Why do this?” Crusan asked himself.
As he dug deeper, he uncovered many reasons why.
In addition to being a good painter, Chadbourn was widely loved and respected. He moved to Maine in 1971, where he taught, wrote and continued to paint until his death in 1998. He was a member of the National Academy, along with Rockwell Kent, Andrew Wyeth and other Maine painters.
He painted across Europe, and spent the last decades of his life painting Maine, from York County to Down East. Chadbourn painted with an unapologetic, sensual style, and his canvases are lush, colorful and exotic.
Writing in a catalog that accompanies the exhibition, longtime Maine arts critic Edgar Allen Beem observes, “The world of Maine as portrayed by Alfred Chadbourn is an exotic land, a more cheerful, beautiful and peaceful parallel universe edified by the artist’s genuine love of paints, place and pleasure.”
Crusan encountered what he called “a huge outpouring of support” for the show. Collectors eagerly loaned paintings, and visitors have traveled great distances to see the show, Crusan said. Among those were Chadbourn’s widow, Mary, who came up from Connecticut, said family friend David Swardlick, interim director of the Maine Center for Creativity in Portland.
Swardlick helped Crusan locate the paintings and arrange the loans for the show.