PORTLAND – The Portland Museum of Art’s “Call of the Coast: Art Colonies of New England” exhibit is an educational blockbuster.

The display of 70-plus works showcases the key role the art colonies of New England played in the creation of an American national identity in the early 20th century.
Art colonies in Old Lyme and Cos Cob, Conn., and Maine’s Ogunquit and Monhegan provided inspiration for artists of national renown. Famous artists sprinkled throughout the exhibit include Edward Hopper, Frederick Childe Hassam, Robert Henri, George Bellows, Rockwell Kent, Walt Kuhn, Charles Woodbury, Willard Metcalf, John Henry Twachtman, Gertrude Fiske, Leo Meissner, James Fitzgerald and Reuben Tam.
“Call of the Coast,” which opened June 25 and runs through Oct. 12, also exposes the general public to many gifted but lesser-known New England artists. Among them are Bernard Karfiol, Everett Warner, Charles Ebert, Ernest Albert, Harry Hoffman, Ernest Lawson, Leonard Ochtman, Edward F. Rook, Clark Greenwood Voorhees, Gaston Longchamps, Murray Hartman, Ernest Fiene and DeHirsh Margules.
In a small gallery inside the large exhibition area, a film about the Old Lyme colony circa 1935, featuring artists George Brustle and Edward Volkert, runs continually.
One gem of the exhibit is a small oil on panel by Hopper titled “Monhegan Houses, Maine.” This beautiful example of the artist’s work is owned by the PMA, which selected it for the exhibit’s poster.
“Matinicus,” a large oil on canvas done by Bellows, is another outstanding work on view. It, too, is owned by the PMA.
A breathtaking painting on loan from the Florence Griswold Museum of Lyme, Conn., is “Laurel,” by Rook, which sets the tone for the exhibit and captivates the viewer as he walks into the first gallery. This oil on canvas, measuring 40¼ by 50 inches, light up the whole gallery with suggested white blossoms cascading across the canvas. An example of American Impressionism, it was painted in 1910.
In contrast to the many nostalgic works created in the American Impressionism style is a large oil on canvas done by Kent in 1949 with sharp, clear lines. The piece, “Wreck of the D.T. Sheridan,” is exciting to see.
Clarence Chatterton’s “Road to Ogunquit,” an oil on Masonite created in 1940, is displayed on the cover of the exhibit’s catalog. Its depiction of rural Ogunquit is timeless and beautiful. The catalog is impressive with colored plates and an introduction written by Jamie Wyeth. (There are no works in the exhibit by Wyeth).
William Henry Irvine’s “Monhegan Bay, Maine,” an oil on canvas done in 1914, offers a soft, nostalgic view of rocks on the coast, people on a sandy beach and lobster traps piled high against the side of a boathouse. The painting was created in hues of soft gray, blue, white and yellow, and its subtle tone is appealing.
Fiske’s oil on canvas titled “Silver Maple, Ogunquit,” created circa 1910, is a delicate mood painting of leaves blowing in the wind on a tree near the sea. Fiske was part of a summer art colony in Ogunquit and a student of Woodbury’s. She also experimented with etchings, and her talent is apparent in a drawing titled “Low Tide.”
Voorhees’ “December Moonrise,” an oil on canvas painted in purple, green, white and dark blue on the horizon, is a nostalgic depiction of snow and evergreen trees on a mountain. The piece was done in 1906. Voorhees was one of the earliest artists to visit the art colony of Old Lyme.
Another oil painting of significance is “Ogunquit Bath House with Lady and Dog,” by Woodbury, who ran the Ogunquit Summer School of Drawing and Painting at the turn of the century. He also was known for creating several hundred etchings. His etching “Rising Tide” depicts a fisherman in a boat on the sea.
Another powerful work in the exhibit is a nude carving in walnut, a wood relief by Robert Laurent titled “Reclining figure.”
“Call of the Coast is a wonderful exhibit that brings to life many artists who deserve recognition. This is a feel-good exhibit because it lifts your spirit and is a celebration of life and its beauty.
The PMA 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.
Pat Davidson Reef has a master’s degree in education and has taught art history at Catherine McAuley High School in Portland. She has written two children’s books, “Dahlov Ipcar, Artist,” and “Bernard Langlais, Sculptor.”


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