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A City Awakes -- Arts Flourish in Portland

This Exhibit Contains 36 Items

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Item 18697

Panorama, S.E. View of Portland in 1832

Panorama, S.E. View of Portland in 1832 / Maine Historical Society

<strong>Arts Flourish in Portland</strong>

Portland was the first state capital, from 1820 to 1832, and supported a diverse array of political businesses and civic activities.

The local economy thrived on fishing, shipping, and mercantile trade.

In 1832, nearly 13,000 people lived in the city, the largest community north of Boston.

Portland's business leaders, befitting their confidence and status, sought new homes and places of business designed by trained architects and furnished by the best artisans.


Item 18695

Sketch, Richardson's Wharf, 1829

Sketch, Richardson's Wharf, 1829 / Maine Historical Society

George Washington Appleton (1805-1831), was born in Boston and was related to Henry Wadsworth Longfellow's second wife, Fanny Appleton.

The artist came to Portland in 1829 where he advertised as a portrait painter and copper-plate engraver.


Item 18163

Public House sketch, Bangs Island, 1829

Public House sketch, Bangs Island, 1829 / Maine Historical Society

Appleton sketched city scenes in Portland to improve his skill and his sense of composition.

The pencil drawings also provide a record of the city's environment in 1829.


Item 18316

John Neal by George Washington Appleton

John Neal by George Washington Appleton / Maine Historical Society

Encouraged by art booster John Neal as well as other arbiters of taste, local patrons sought images of familiar scenery, painted portraits, and life-like sculpture for their homes.

Neal (1793-1876) was a Portland native who enjoyed a diverse and impressive career as a novelist, attorney, phrenologist, publisher, boxer, women's rights advocate, and art critic.

George Washington Appleton painted Neal's portrait.


Item 18354

Cartoon, Portland Watch or Cracking Notes, ca. 1840

Cartoon, Portland Watch or Cracking Notes, ca. 1840 / Maine Historical Society

Joseph Ticomb Harris, though little known today, was an integral figure in the flowering of Portland's art scene. He worked for painter Charles Codman and mirror maker James Todd.

John Neal called Harris's early paintings "not worth kicking a hole through for a ventilating fireboard."

However, by May 1835, Neal was glowing over the painter's new works, noting Harris "is in a fair way to become a distinguished portrait painter."

Harris moved to New York in 1836.

This three-part cartoon, probably produced more for fun and an audience of friends than as a commission, provides a unique visual insight into the Portland art scene.

It depicts a battle between sailors and and late-night musical carousers near St. Paul's Church in the Old Port.

Dedicated to friends Jott and Seth Paine, the painter Frederic Mellen and brother Henry, it no doubt commemorates a real event.

In the 1830s, "night bands" made up of young men serenaded citizens between 11 p.m. and 3 a.m. Apparently they were paid to go away, for there are a number of anti night band letters in the local press.


Item 18693

Diamond Cove, Great Diamond Island, ca. 1836

Diamond Cove, Great Diamond Island, ca. 1836 / Maine Historical Society

In the 1820s, Charles Codman (1800-1842) began to paint images of Diamond Cove on Great Diamond Island in Casco Bay.

He produced dozens of such images, all a bit different. His work helped to make the cove a visual icon of Portland.

Artists J.G. Cloudman, S.B. Beckett, J.B. Hudson, Maria a'Beckett, as well as Harriet Beecher Stowe and Robert Salmon all tried their hand on Cove scenes.


Item 18383

Lady with Dove, ca. 1830

Lady with Dove, ca. 1830 / Maine Historical Society

Codman, though primarily a landscape painter, experimented with genre, portraiture, fancy piece (imaginary scenes), and even still life.

John Neal noted that Codman sometimes used a pin with white paint to get highlights.


Item 18719

Charles Codman letter to James Deering, ca. 1830

Charles Codman letter to James Deering, ca. 1830 / Maine Historical Society

In this remarkable letter, Charles Codman presents to his patron James Deering "a humble effort" at landscape painting.

Codman notes, "This picture is an original design, and will require a strong light to have proper effect."


Item 18718

Painting of a Woman, ca. 1824

Painting of a Woman, ca. 1824 / Maine Historical Society

William Matthew Prior, age 18, wrote on the back of this canvas, "W.M. Prior, painter, formerly of Bath. Painted in C. Codman's shop, Portland, Maine."

Young men and women from all social classes trained in workshops and academies with dreams of artistic or literary glory and discovered a growing demand for their work.

Utilitarian objects became increasingly ornamental and began to be taken seriously by both artist and patron.


Item 18698

Sarah Gilbert, Portland, 1829

Sarah Gilbert, Portland, 1829 / Maine State Museum

In 1826, Susanna Paine (1792-1862) came to Portland from Massachusetts to pursue her career as an artist.

She was divorced, ignored by the local press, and frustrated -- as she described in her autobiography <i>Roses and Thorns</i> (1854).

Eventually, Portland proved an excellent location. A letter in the <i>Portland Advertiser</i> in 1827 recognized Paine's portraits and boasted, "Ladies must feel pride and pleasure in patronizing a female artist."

Paine made a number of return visits over the decades and other women joined the ranks, exhibiting with male artists and gaining a larger share of public interest.

Women probably made up half the number of 19th century Portland painters, though many remained amateurs or teachers.


Item 14959

Frederick Mellen, Head of a Cleric, 1832

Frederick Mellen, Head of a Cleric, 1832 / Maine Historical Society

The source or general inspiration for this compelling image is not known, but may be a series of portrait studies by Washington Allston (1779-1843).

Frederick Mellen, who was socially well connected, might have visited the master in Massachusetts and could have seen his works for both men exhibited at the Boston Athenaeum.

A painting of <i>Hamlet</i>, also in the Maine Historical Society collection, suggests Mellen's quest for subjects suitable to an artist.


Item 18425

Cathedral Interior by Frederick Mellen, 1833

Cathedral Interior by Frederick Mellen, 1833 / Maine Historical Society

This is a sophisticated painting and unlike the work of other Maine artists of the time. The source is unknown.

Mellen did not visit Europe, although he wrote poems about Italy while in college.

Indeed, the so-called "dream of Acadia" provided ideas and inpsiration and Italy drew other local artists across the sea.


Item 18428

Diploma, Maine Charitable Mechanic Association, 1838

Diploma, Maine Charitable Mechanic Association, 1838 / Maine Historical Society

Wilson and Percy received this diploma along with a silver medal for the best specimen of Military and Natural Otter Caps at the 1838 Exhibition and Fair of the Charitable Mechanic Association.

This print includes a view of Portland City Hall, a building that stood on Monument Square until 1887.

James Todd, president of the Charitable Mechanic group and a looking glass maker, signed the diploma.


Item 11920

Dresser box, ca. 1838

Dresser box, ca. 1838 / Maine Historical Society

Little is known about H. R. Taylor, maker of this dresser box, except that he received a diploma for the piece at the 1838 Exhibition and Fair of the Maine Charitable Mechanic Association.

Catalogs document the last three Charitable Mechanic events and describe the men and women artisans who participated and the things they made.

These were the first events of their type in Maine and illustrate the depth and vitality of the arts in Portland.

Judges at the 1838 exhibition, writing about the dresser box, acknowleged that "some parts are beautiful," they felt there was "too much contrivance" for an article that is used every day and is "liable to be easily deranged."


Item 6645

Akers' Head of Sleeping Child, ca. 1861

Akers' Head of Sleeping Child, ca. 1861 / Maine Historical Society

Paul Akers (1825-1861) made this curious clay study of a child's head. He is best known for his high Victorian marble masterpiece made in 1858, <i>The Dead Pearl Diver.</i>

Born in Westbrook, Akers studied briefly in Boston before returning to Portland about 1850.

He and painter John Tilton became proteges of John Neal, who found them a studio, promoted their work, and encouraged patronage from Henry Longfellow, the Appletons, and J.B. Brown.


Item 14955

Akers commemorative medal, 1854

Akers commemorative medal, 1854 / Maine Historical Society

Akers was awaded this silver medal for his bas relief, <i>Peace</i>, at the 1854 Exhibition and Fair of the Maine Charitable Mechanic Association.


Item 17528

Orramel Hinckley Throop business card, ca. 1820

Orramel Hinckley Throop business card, ca. 1820 / Maine Historical Society

Orramel Throop established his engraving business over the Portland Bank in 1823 and was soon joined by his brother Daniel.

They had hoped to find a steady market in the then-capital city.

Bad luck or poor buisness practices found Throop in debt and jailed by 1824 and shortly after on his way out of town.


Item 18848

Stephen Longfellow, Portland, ca. 1845

Stephen Longfellow, Portland, ca. 1845 / Maine Historical Society

Born in Lovell, Jonathan Eastman Johnson studied in Boston before working as an itinerant artist in Maine.

Though his connection with the Portland art community was brief, it was pivota. Johnson spent the winter of 1845-1846 in rented studio rooms in City Hall.

It was probably at this time that his compelling likeness of Stephen Longfellow was taken. Two years later, the artist was in Boston where Longfellow's famous son Henry sat for Johnson.

Longfellow helped Johnson find notable sitters and patrons, including Hawthorne and Emerson.

Eastman Johnson went on to become the finest Maine-born genre painter of the century.


Item 5510

Moore Memorial embroidery, Portland, 1838

Moore Memorial embroidery, Portland, 1838 / Maine Historical Society

Sarah Jane Moore attend Miss Rea's School in Portland where she made this sampler in memory of family members.

It features needlework and printed motifs and shows familiar city buildings, including the Portland Observatory.


Item 18351

Judge Ashur Ware, 1846

Judge Ashur Ware, 1846 / Maine Historical Society

Joseph Greenleaf Cole (1806-1858) worked in Portland in 1825, 1826, and 1832. He later settled in Boston where he continued his work as a painter.

He was the brother of Charles Octavious Cole, and son of the portrait and decorative painter Jacques Moyse Dupre (1783-1849), who immigrated from France to Newburyport, Massachusetts, where he changed his name to Moses Dupre Cole.

Ashur Ware (1782-1873) was a Harvard-educated lawyer who was a U.S. District Court Judge in Maine, served as secretary of state in Maine and was a president of several banks.


Item 18849

Mirror, Portland, ca. 1825

Mirror, Portland, ca. 1825 / Maine Historical Society

Trained in Boston, James Todd came to Portland in 1820 and established his looking glass manufactory on Exchange Street.

He operated the business until 1866, when it was destroyed by the Portland fire.

Todd's mirrors often include painted scenes made by local artisans.


Item 18850

Flowerpot, Portland, ca. 1840

Flowerpot, Portland, ca. 1840 / Maine Historical Society

This classically shaped flower pot was made in the Dodge Pottery Works in Portland.

Two generations of Dodges ran the pottery that began in the late 1790s and continued until 1875.


Item 18851

Painted document box, Portland, ca. 1825

Painted document box, Portland, ca. 1825 / Maine Historical Society

Zachariash Stevens' tin shop likely made this document box in 1800.

The shop operated until 1842 and made hundreds of these utilitarian containers coated with black paint and colorful designs.


Item 18674

James Clark Burnham, Portland, 1848

James Clark Burnham, Portland, 1848 / Maine Historical Society

Charles Octavious Cole (1817-1858) became Portland's premier resident portrait painter beginning in 1833.

A student of Charles Codman (1800-1842), Cole produced scores of likenesses ranging from Henry Longfellow to Emma "Coot" Moody, as well as some fine landscape oils.

His own students included J.B. Hudson Jr. and Charles Kimball.

In 1845 and 1849, Cole organized major exhibitions of American and European works.

This painting of James Clark Burnham (1843-1930) is one of Cole's more ambitious oils.

Burnham was the son of one of Portland's leading families. He dabbled in journalism and lived his entire life in Portland.


Item 17529

Casco Engine Co. No. 1, Portland, 1846

Casco Engine Co. No. 1, Portland, 1846 / Maine Historical Society

This half-plate daguerreotype documents a fireman's parade on Middle Street in Portland in 1846.

The domed Merchant's Exchange building looms in the background.


Item 18701

Anna Goodrich Woodford, ca. 1850

Anna Goodrich Woodford, ca. 1850 / Maine Historical Society

An unknown photographer made this daguerreotype of Anna Goodrich Woodford in about 1850.


Item 18884

Mary A. Turner, Portland, ca. 1850

Mary A. Turner, Portland, ca. 1850 / Maine Historical Society

This daguerreotype, made in about 1850 by an unknown artist, portrays Mary A. Turner (Mrs. George) of India Street in Portland.


Item 18405

Unidentified woman with child, ca. 1850

Unidentified woman with child, ca. 1850 / Maine Historical Society

A daguerreotype of an unknown woman and child. Daguerreotypes were invented in 1839 and remained popular methods of creating portraits until replaced by the ambrotype, which was less expensive, in the late 1850s.


Item 18852

View of Portland, ca. 1866

View of Portland, ca. 1866 / Maine Historical Society

<strong>The End of the Golden Age</strong>

This print shows Portland before much of downtown was destroyed in 1866 by a fire that burned for two days. It was the largest fire in America at that time.

Though quickly rebuilt into a modern Victorian city, Portland had lost much that could never be recovered.

The emergence of the railroad also diminished the importance of the city's mercantile economy and dramatically changed the local business environment.


Item 18699

Building of a ship painting, ca. 1851

Building of a ship painting, ca. 1851 / Maine Historical Society

John Rollin Tilton painted this oil for Portland native Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, taking its subject from the author's famous poem.

It shows the shipyards of Cape Elizabeth and the Portland skyline.

Longfellow exhibited this work at the Boston Athenaeum in 1851.


Item 6891

Winter scene near Portland, ca. 1848

Winter scene near Portland, ca. 1848 / Maine Historical Society

John Neal frequently proclaimed that Charles E. Beckett was the first "Portland-born" landscape painter, but he was often critical of the artist.

Neal thought Beckett had a "poor eye for color" and that his landscapes "had the look of engravings."

Beckett, a druggist by trade, provided some of the loveliest and most accurate views of Portland and vicinity.


Item 18700

Bramhall, Portland, 1856

Bramhall, Portland, 1856 / Maine Historical Society

Although John Bundy Brown (1805-1881) was born in humble circumstances, he became one of Portland's wealthiest businessmen by the 1850s.

Beginning as a grocery clerk, he built a flourishing real estate business and a sugar refinery. He paid one thirtieth of the city's texes.

Brown hired architect Charles A. Alexander (1828-1888) to design his now-lost mansion on the Western Promenade.

Built between 1855 and 1858, "Bramhall" featured a private art gallery that displayed Brown's large collection of works by virtually every local artist and many notable American and European painters.

J.B. Brown had no rival as the city's leading art patron of this period.


Item 6673

J.B. Brown's Portland Sugar House, Portland, ca. 1850

J.B. Brown's Portland Sugar House, Portland, ca. 1850 / Maine Historical Society

Brown's Sugar House served as the storage building for molasses from the West Indies that was then refined into sugar.


Item 18854

John Bundy Brown, Portland, ca. 1874

John Bundy Brown, Portland, ca. 1874 / Maine Historical Society

Franklin B. Simmons (1839-1913), Maine's most prolific 19th century sculptor, opened a studio in Portland in 1859 and soon found a growing demand for monuments to soldiers and politicans.

In 1867, he moved to Rome, Italy, where he opened a studio. He eventually received an Italian Knighthood in recognition of his skill.

Though his studio was in Europe, he remained connected to Portland and created monuments to Longfellow and "Our Lady of Victories" on either end of Congress Street.

He also eceived commissions from J. B. Brown. His bust of Brown is widely considered his best work.


Item 18853

The Cheat Detected, ca. 1860

The Cheat Detected, ca. 1860 / Maine Historical Society

When English artist Elizabeth Heaphy Murray (1815-1882) arrived in Portland during the 1860s, she was recognized by John Neal as a "Portland painter."

One of the most highly respected watercolorists on either side of the Atlantic, Murray soon became involved in the local cultural scene, claining students and exhibiting work in Portland and in New York.

"The Cheat" or "The Cheat Detected" is an example of Murray's ability and reflects the changing tast among collectors. J. B. Brown owned this watercolor.

In the second half of the 19th century, interest in American landscape painting lost favor to more sophisticated European styles.

A few local artists strugged on in Portland, supported by an aging core of patrons.


Item 18883

William Pitt Fessenden by Charles Akers, ca. 1865

William Pitt Fessenden by Charles Akers, ca. 1865 / Maine Historical Society

Charles "Karl" Akers (1835-1906) was born in Hollis and became an active sculptor in Portland and writer for the <i>Atlantic Monthly.</i>

Like other artists in post-Civil War Portland, he struggled to make his living solely from the community.

In 1897, the artist recalled, "In 1866 came the great fire, which in one wild night destroyed all the business part of the city and changed the fate of many individuals and families. All my possessions were burned, most of my 'commissions' repudiated or forgotten, and I found myself in a rather forlorn condition, nobody caring to dally with the fine arts in the fierce activity which sprang up to rebuild and restore."

Akers left Portland for Cambridge where he received new commissions and became a minor member of a group of artists associated with James Russell Lowell and Henry Wadsworth Longfellow.

Eventually, artists from New York, Boston and elsewhere with established reputations found Casco Bay and the coast of Maine a pressure-free, inexpensive environment in which to set up summer studios.



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