Homer at home
Last weekend I traveled to Maine to tour the Winslow Homer Studio, where the artist lived and painted from 1883 until his death in 1910.
The studio is on Prouts Neck, a small peninsula that juts into the Atlantic Ocean. My grandfather grew up on Prouts Neck, my parents live there today, and the studio is a familiar sight, visible from a short hiking trail that I’ve done many times. Until very recently, the studio was closed to the public. But in 2006 the Portland Museum of Art acquired Homer’s studio from his descendants and spent the next six years restoring the weather-beaten building.
Tours of the studio require a reservation. And although the studio is just a mile or two from my parents’ house, visitors are not permitted to drive up to building, which is in a private residential community. So my friends and I got our reservations, then drove to the art museum in Portland, where we met our small tour group and got on a van that took us out to the studio.
I loved the studio. In fact, I want to live there. It is a simple wooden building with some interesting features, such as the balcony — known as the piazza — that overlooks the rocky coast that was the subject of some of Homer’s most famous works. According to our docent, Homer hung his paintings from the balcony so that he could look at them from the front lawn and gain another perspective on them. I also appreciated the walls, which we were instructed not to touch, because Homer jotted notes on them.
The studio was also built to maximize Homer’s privacy, which was one of the things I really liked about it. There are no windows on the rear of the house, which meant that people couldn’t see in. As if that wasn’t enough, Homer had a wooden sign — displayed atop the studio’s beautiful old fireplace — that said “Snakes Snakes Mice!” When Homer really didn’t want to be disturbed, he put this sign up. I’m thinking of getting a sign just like it, and hanging it above my desk. In any case, it should come as no surprise that Homer was known as the hermit of Prouts Neck.
The Homer studio is definitely worth a visit. I, for one, would like to return during a storm and watch the dark skies and crashing ocean from the window where Homer once stood, with a fire roaring on the hearth behind me and a pot of hot tea ready to drink.
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