PMA will showcase early Maine Modernists

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PORTLAND — In the first half of the 20th century a small group of American Modernists chose to summer in the mid-coast communities south of Bath, in a region that was then known as Seguinland.

“Maine Moderns: Art in Seguinland, 1900–1940,” on view June 4 through Sept. 11, 2011, at the Portland Museum of Art, will feature more than 65 paintings, sculptures, drawings and photographs by artists such as Mardsen Hartley, Max Weber, Marguerite and William Zorach, Gaston Lachaise and Gertrude Kasebier.

The exhibition will examine the close personal and professional relationships of this group and the distinctive landscape that bound them together.

Although much of their artistic activity was centered in New York, along with their mentor, photographer and art dealer Alfred Stieglitz, these artists all chose Maine as their summer home. It was there that they developed a camaraderie and sense of place that strongly influenced their work.

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The exhibition begins with an examination of pictorial photographs by F. Holland Day, Clarence White, Kasebier and others taken around Day’s home in Georgetown and White’s summer art school at the neighboring Seguinland Hotel.

“Maine Moderns” will take a look at the work of Weber and John Marin, who both showed their Maine images in Stieglitz’s New York galleries. In the early 1920s, sculptor Lachaise bought a summer home and studio in Georgetown and welcomed painter Hartley back to his native state, when Hartley returned to work here in 1928.

Other frequent visitors to the Lachaise house during this period include photographer Paul Strand and the Zorachs, both painters, who had settled at the other end of Robinhood Cove not far from the Lachaise house. Among the latter group, it was the Zorachs whose work most frequently depicted this region.

Seguinland was distinct from the better known art colonies at Ogunquit and Monhegan Island, which were also active during this period. In those places, larger numbers of both professional and amateur artists congregated for lessons and exhibitions, intermingling with a tourist community. But the two coastal areas south of Bath, Georgetown and Phippsburg, remained more isolated during the first half of the 20th century. The few artists there were a select group of individuals drawn by the distinctive coastline and their shared interests in modernism.

The museum at Seven Congress Square is open 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Saturday and Sunday; and 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. Friday. Admission is $10 for adults, $8 for seniors and students with ID, $4 for youths ages 6-17 and free for children under 6. Admission is free from 5 to 9 p.m. Friday.

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