An Introduction to off the coast
Maine is widely celebrated as a place of great natural beauty bathed in exquisite light. The state enjoys a rich artistic tradition best known through the work of a largely male group of artists such as Thomas Cole, Winslow Homer, Rockwell Kent, Edward Hopper, and Paul Strand, whose visits to the state created an enduring picturesque archetype. Today, a growing and diversifying corps of artists is changing how both Mainers and people “from away” perceive the state. No longer solely a place to visit to make inspired art, Maine has become a destination where more and more contemporary artists live and work. Off the Coast: A Landscape Chronology deconstructs the art-historical paradigm of New England and Maine while exploring innovations in contemporary landscape art.
George Inness’ and Delbert Dana (D.D.) Coombs’ work belongs to the pastoral tradition prevalent in the nineteenth century, though each rejected the notion of offering the viewer a mere “window onto the world” or an idealization of vast wilderness – at the time a popular visual metaphor for American opportunity. Instead, they sought to impart the emotional experience they felt in more humble surroundings, as witnesses to the union of natural and spiritual realms. By mid-century, artists sought new ways to express the iconic power of Maine’s geography. The dynamic language of Expressionism provided Marsden Hartley and James Fitzgerald a means to capture the impressive contour of Mount Katahdin. Berenice Abbott’s images of the Maine logging industry, illustrations for her book A Portrait of Maine, reveal an eye for narrative and a modernist’s interest in the patterns created by cut logs sent downriver to the mill.