PORTLAND – For the first time, the Portland Museum of Art is exhibiting work by the close-knit group of artists who have been active on Maine’s Cranberry Isles for the past 50 years.

“Art of the Cranberry Isles” explores the close relationship between these artists and their love of the natural topography and people of the Cranberries through a vivid sense of color, a strong feel for atmosphere, and a vigorous quality of graphic design. The exhibition of 25 works, drawn primarily from the museum’s permanent collection, features paintings, drawings, prints and photographs – all ranging in style from the figural to the abstract.

“Art of the Cranberry Isles” will be on view June 28.

Situated off the southern end of Mount Desert Island, the Cranberry Isles have for centuries sustained fishing and farming communities. However, it is only since the early 1950s that modernist artists began to populate this small group of five Maine islands. Great Cranberry has provided a summer home for most of them, including the best known – George Bunker, Gretna Campbell and her husband, Louis Finkelstein, Dorothy Eisner, John Heliker, William Kienbusch, Robert LaHotan, Carl Nelson and Charles Wadsworth.

Perhaps the most famous, but least often recognized as a Cranberry Island artist, was photographer Walker Evans, who spent time there in the 1960s. Among the contemporary artists who continue to be inspired by the islands’ distinctive coast and creative community are graphic artist Emily Nelligan, and printmaker and book illustrator Ashley Bryan, who retired to nearby Little Cranberry.

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