Masterpiece Theatres | New England Art Collections
Then stroll outside to the front yard and the meadow where a woman is found in the forefront of Wyeth’s iconic painting, which is now housed in New York’s Museum of Modern Art. At first glance, she seems to be reclining in the tall grass, but then we learn that she’s actually crawling. Stricken with a neuromuscular disorder (perhaps polio), Christina Olson could not use her legs. Wyeth once wrote, “The challenge to me was to do justice to her extraordinary conquest of a life which most people would consider hopeless.”
Finish your tour of the property by walking down the road to the Cushing docks, where lobstermen sell their fresh catch. farnsworthmuseum.org/olson-house
Winslow Homer Studio:
Prouts Neck, Maine
Acquired in 2006 by the Portland Museum of Art, Homer’s former home reopened last September after a $10 million restoration of the structure to its original intention. A refinished piazza and copper roof are just some of the touches added to the studio, which was Homer’s main residence from 1883 until his death in 1910. A tour inside (reservations required) will reveal the watercolors his mother painted; the sign he created (SNAKES! SNAKES! MICE!) to dissuade his growing fan club from interrupting his work; his signature etched into one of the glass windows; and the worn second-story floorboards, where he paced back and forth as he viewed his beloved Atlantic seascape. The interior is dark, with little natural light, and the studio feels claustrophobic, even after you spend just a few minutes inside. The monastic conditions suited the painter perfectly, since it forced him to be outside as much as possible, atop Prouts Neck’s craggy coastline, a frothy welcome mat to the fury of the sea.
Taking Homer’s cue, stroll the mile-long cliff walk (accessible with your tour) and you’ll be entering some of his most famous paintings. To the left, a cylindrical formation juts from the shoreline, similar to the rugged scene in Cannon Rock (1895; Metropolitan Museum of Art). Soon the trail starts its ascent, offering glorious ocean vistas–Homer’s inspiration for High Cliff, Coast of Maine (1894; Smithsonian American Art Museum).
Homer cherished the off-season, the time of year when nor’easters and powerful gales would wreak havoc on this spit of land, leading to his most vivid paintings. The Portland Museum of Art will also avoid the summer months, offering tours only during spring and fall. portlandmuseum.org/about/homerstudio/visit.php
Baker Memorial Library, Dartmouth College:
Hanover, New Hampshire
In the spring of 1932, Dartmouth made the shrewd move of inviting renowned Mexican muralist Jose Clemente Orozco to its campus to lecture and to demonstrate his style of fresco painting. In a corridor between Carpenter Hall and Baker Memorial Library, he created a work based on the Greek figure Daedelus, depicting a man rising from “a heap of destructive machinery.” The finished piece led quickly to a major commission for Orozco: the chance to paint the walls of the new Baker reserve reading room (now the Orozco Room of Baker-Berry Library).
The artist accepted the challenge, and over the next two years painted 24 massive panels, eschewing his original mythological theme for a much headier concept: the combined influence of indigenous and European cultures on America. Titled The Epic of American Civilization, the work is now considered by art critics to be one of the two most influential Mexican murals in America, along with Diego Rivera’s Detroit Industry at the Detroit Institute of Arts.
“It’s like walking into the Sistine Chapel. It’s that spectacular,” says Sarah Powers, special-projects curator at Dartmouth’s Hood Museum of Art. Even more so now that new state-of-the-art lighting was installed this past summer; the reds, oranges, and blues in Orozco’s work seem to pop off the walls, adding to the vibrancy of the already-dramatic work.