Generations of artists have called Maine home, either documenting it as a local or exploring it from the eyes of an outsider. These art museums house the state’s great works, prominently and proudly displaying the state’s relationship with the sea, but also featuring the works of iconic European masters. Here are the must-see museums on your next visit to Maine.
Portland Museum of Art
European titans and Maine icons, the Portland Museum has a world-class collection and is the gem of the state’s art museums. Recent renovations have bolstered its collection of Maine artists fascinated with animals, from Bernard Langlais to Dahlov Ipcar. Whether your tastes are tuned to the likes Frederic Church, John Singer Sargent or Winslow Homer (there’s a whole room dedicated to the latter’s paintings of Prouts Neck), or Renoir, Monet and Picasso, it’s impossible not to fall in love with the museum. We could go on (what about the Wyeths?!), but you should just go and see it for yourself.
Farnsworth Art Museum
Christina’s World may be in the Museum of Modern Art in New York, but this mid-coast museum is still one of the best places to enjoy Andrew Wyeth’s works. The Farnsworth has many of the family’s paintings (there was Andrew, N.C., Henriette and James), as well as the kaleidoscopic works of Dahlov Ipcar and profiles painted by Charles Lewis Fox.
Bowdoin College Museum of Art
One of the nation’s oldest university galleries, there are more than 20,000 paintings, sculptures and artifacts on display at the Bowdoin College Museum. Many of these are crucial works from the Colonial era, including portraits of Thomas Jefferson and James Madison. The collection also features work of artists including Mary Cassatt, John Sloan, Andrew Wyeth and mementos from Winslow Homer’s studio. Sketches and drawings from Rembrandt, Rubens, Goya and Picasso are also on display. History buffs are no less forgotten, with 1,800 pieces of Assyrian, Egyptian, Greek and Roman pieces; one of the most extensive at any high ed institution.
Colby College of Art
One of the nation’s premier educational institutions for American art Colby College of Art is located in a small central town and has important works from Winslow Homer, Georgia O’Keefe and George Bellows, among other painters. Artists who featured Maine in their works, including John Marin, Fairfield Porter and Marsden Hartley, are also heavily featured. Famed mid-century painter Alex Katz has 700 paintings which he donated to the college.
Bates College Art Museum
Bates College‘s permanent collection includes more than 5,000 works, including a significant collection from Maine local Marsden Hartley, as well as modern and contemporary paintings and photographs from American and Chinese artists. Also included are European icons such as Paul Cézanne, Henri Matisse and Pablo Picasso.
The Ogunquit Museum of American Art
Tucked away in a small seaside town, Ogunquit’s art museum is an understated heavyweight. The village’s famous early 20th century art colony is represented in full here, including works by Edward Betts, Charles Woodbury and Robert Laurent. Sculptures – a wooden lion, a horse and a rhino – by Bernard Langlais are also featured outside, as are works by Marsden Hartley’s circle. The museum regularly displays works showing the origins of the state’s beloved artists, including works by Dahlov Ipcar’s parents, artists Marguerite and William Zorach.
Bernard Langlais Art Trail
Less a museum and more of a treasure hunt, the Bernard Langlais Art Trail crisscrosses the state following the sites where Langlais’ famous wooden animal sculptures are found. The epicenter is the Langlais Sculpture Preserve at Georges River Land Trust in Cushing, Langlais’ 90-acre homestead. Langlais created over 3,000 indoor and outdoor works over the course of his life, including the “World’s Tallest Indian” in Skowhegan to “Painted Horse” and “Painted Cow” in Norway (yes, Maine).
The Tides Institute & Museum of Art
Way, way out of the way (unless you’re coming from Canada), the Tides Institute & Museum of Art in tiny Eastport (with a population of 1,300) looks out at the Atlantic ocean and Canada from one of Maine’s most easterly points. The collection consists of 4,500 volumes of mostly Maine and Canadian maritime art, Native American basketry, architectural drawings and other documentation and artifacts. Its exhibitions also feature local artists (the current offerings come from the Maine Aomori Printmaking Society) and there is an artist in-residence who works on projects onsite.
Monhegan Museum of Art and History
Tourists trickling over the the island could do worse than stopping at its art museum, which is dedicated to artists showcasing the natural, social, industrial, cultural and artistic history of Monhegan. The museum started in a disused lighthouse and was later expanded to a nearby home. Prominent works include Andrew Winters, Leon Kroll and Jay Hall Connaway.