Jamie Wyeth, “With Green Peppers,” 2016, gesso, gouache and watercolor on toned paper board, 24-by-30 inches ©Jamie Wyeth/Artists Rights Society

When Jamie Wyeth heard last week that three of his paintings had been destroyed in a fire, he said the loss felt like “ripping a page out of your diary.”

The works dated as far back as 1982 and hung in Linda Bean’s Wyeth Gallery above the Port Clyde General Store, which was among the waterfront buildings that burned in the fast-moving blaze Wednesday night. The cause of the fire, which started in the Dip Net restaurant, is under investigation.

Jamie Wyeth at the Farnsworth in Rockland in 2019. Press Herald staff photo by Brianna Soukup

The sunlit gallery space was devoted to the renowned art family with strong ties to the Midcoast and showed the work of three generations of painters: Jamie, his father, Andrew, and his grandfather, N.C. One painting by N.C. Wyeth burned alongside those of his grandson, and the fire also destroyed books, prints and memorabilia.

The total value of the artwork lost is unclear. Shannon Moss, a spokeswoman for the Maine State Fire Marshal’s Office, said the damage across all the buildings burned in the fire was “in the millions.”

“Losing art is always a great tragedy – it is irreplaceable,” said Christopher Brownawell, director of the Farnsworth Museum in nearby Rockland. “This particular loss is only compounded because of our close connection to the Wyeth family and the work that was destroyed.”

Jamie Wyeth, in a phone interview from his home on Southern Island, described the gallery as “lovely.”


“It was really almost a public service on Linda Bean’s part,” he said. “She did this because she seems to have loved the paintings and felt they ought to have more of an audience, and how perfect to have it over the general store in Port Clyde.”

The paintings burned included “Snapper,” a mixed-media piece from 1982 that depicted a snapping turtle on Wyeth’s farm in Chadds Ford, Pennsylvania.

“I loved ‘Snapper,’” said Wyeth. “I spent a lot of time with the turtle.”

Jamie Wyeth, “Snapper,” 1982, mixed media, 30-by-40 inches ©Jamie Wyeth/Artists Rights Society

Another was “Red-tailed Hawk,” a 2013 study for a portrait Wyeth made of a friend who is a falconer. Wyeth said the hawk that is the subject of that work also frequented the farm. The third was part of a series of paintings of seagulls, this one from 2016 called “With Green Peppers,” inspired by a moment familiar to those on the coast.

“It was what happens often,” he said. “In swoops a gull and off goes your piece of pizza.”

Wyeth said Bean owned “Snapper” and “Red-tailed Hawk,” and she had asked him if she could display “With Green Peppers” as well. Mary Beth Dolan, the artist’s assistant, said “With Green Peppers” was listed at the gallery for $150,000, but she did not know the value of the other paintings. A representative for Linda Bean did not respond to emails about the lost artwork.


Wyeth said his paintings feel “like part of my life and part of my diary.”

“To have three of them go up in flames is a little affecting,” he said.

Even harder to bear is the loss of his grandfather’s work. N.C. Wyeth died in 1945. “He certainly isn’t around making them anymore,” his grandson said.

Jamie Wyeth, “Red-tailed Hawk,” 2013, mixed media study on toned board, 16-by-16 inches ©Jamie Wyeth/Artists Rights Society

In a statement last week, Bean said the works destroyed in the gallery included one original N.C. Wyeth she had recently acquired – “the beautiful frontispiece illustration from (Henry David) Thoreau’s book ‘Men of Concord.’ ”

In 2008, the Brandywine Conservancy and Museum of Art in Chadds Ford completed “a catalogue raisonné” of N.C. Wyeth’s work – an extensive compilation that documented nearly 2,000 paintings in both public and private collections that were created between 1902 and 1945. In 2016, the museum exhibited the 12 original panels N.C. Wyeth painted for “Men of Concord and Some Others, as Portrayed in the Journal of Henry David Thoreau.” The book published in 1936 and was Wyeth’s own project based on Thoreau’s personal writings.

The frontispiece illustration – the one opposite the title page – was included in the catalog of N.C. Wyeth’s work and in the essay that accompanied the exhibition. It depicts a team of oxen crossing a snowy field. Christine Podmaniczky, curator emerita of the N.C. Wyeth Catalogue Raisonné at the Brandywine Museum of Art, wrote in the 2016 essay that the painting enriched Thoreau’s description of a winter sunset: “Ah, what isles those western clouds! In what a sea!” She also said that he captioned the illustration with an abbreviated quote from Thoreau’s journal: “A man of certain probity and worth, immortal and natural.”


“Wyeth scrawled ‘New England’ on the reverse of this panel, suggesting the scene for him evoked the essential character not just of Concord, but the entire region,” Podmaniczky wrote.

The museum has an image of the painting in its online catalog but did not have permission to share it for publication.

Wyeth is glad no one was killed or injured in the fire, but he has been unable to bring himself to visit the wreckage. He said the general store in particular was “the heart of Port Clyde.”

“That was a meeting place for everybody,” Wyeth said. “As a child, I went there. To see the smoking hulk that is left, that is terrible.”

“This whole thing is sort of upsetting to me,” he added. “I don’t want to go right in the middle of it and pore over things. I would just as soon rather stay here on my island and keep working.”

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