Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Coast of Maine: SEGUINLAND...a place of extraordinary beauty where artists gathered.

Small Point

A recent invitation by friends took us to Phippsburg, Maine. During our visit they took us to several of their favorite places showing us many aspects of this enchanting place.
A stop at Small Point found us on the porch of a grand and charming shingled style building the likes of an old hotel. The porch, with wicker and rockers, faced the sea. Visible from the porch is an island with a lighthouse, Seguin Island Light.
By the way, this lighthouse where the Kennebec River meets the sea,was commissioned by George Washington in 1795

Etnier House

The house on the distant shore belonged to an artist Stephen Etnier (1903-1984).
He was only vaguely familiar to both myself and James, so it was interesting to find out more about him. Our friends and hosts had a book about Etnier, so we recognized the house and the interesting boat launch from paintings and photos. I later read that Etnier originally arrived in Maine in 1928 to study with Rockwell Kent.

It is no wonder that artists have been attracted to this area.
This place, "Seguinland", encompasses both the Phippsburg and Georgetown Peninsulas, flanking the Kennebec River.

Georgetown and Phippsburg attracted a group of artists, Modernists, during the first half of the 20th Century.
During the mid 1920's into the 1930's many renowned artists left their NY studios for the summer seeking a cooler climate and beauty of Maine. Here in Seguinland the likes of artists such as Gaston Lachaise, Marsden Hartley,
John Marin, Marguerite and William Zorach worked, gardened and gathered to savour life here.
Photographers Alfred Stieglitz and Paul Strand also found themselves drawn to these breathtaking Maine peninsulas.

Low tide, Phippsburg

We found this place to be a visual symphony of water, sand, rocky shore, dark pines and clear light. Water creating patterns in the sand, water carving out granite, water shimmering in the sunlight. The sound of gulls and the surprise of a Bald Eagle exiting a nearby, very nearby tree and soaring out across the cove.
A day of exploring followed by a perfectly clear evening on the porch enjoying lobster and champagne.
Our evenings entertainment....The Milky Way and shooting stars.

The next morning the fog rolls in, yet another Maine experience.
It is lovely, soft and atmospheric.
It is clear why so many artists have spent time in this special place.
We had a splendid time.

For more on "Seguinland" visit the Portland Museum of Art to see two
current exhibitions:

Maine Moderns: Art in Seguinland, 1900-1940
June 4- September 11, 2011

John Marin: Modernism at Midcentury
June 23- October 10, 2011

Another exhibit on painting in Maine can be seen at Bowdoin College Museum of Art.
Edward Hopper spent several summers painting and drawing
in Ogunquit and on Monhegan Island, this show is a collection of those works.

Edward Hopper's Maine
July 15 - October 16, 2011

Thursday, August 4, 2011


With the boat moored and all passengers and provisions delivered to the island by multiple dinghy trips, our island adventure begins. We land on the rocky north shore of the island.
Baker Island, now part of Acadia National Park is in Frenchman's Bay and is one of the Cranberry Islands. Stepping out of the dinghy into the water we find the water cold , but not chilling. The dinghy is tied to a rock. We all gather our bags and make our way up a mowed path through a vast meadow, probably once a meadow for grazing cows.
Every few yards everyone stops to look in awe at the utter beauty of this place.

It was in 1806 when the first settlers, the Gilley family, came to the island. They came here to farm, a labor intensive endeavor. The idea of transporting animals and crops to and from the island to the main land for marketing is daunting. They were certainly a hearty and determined group and must have cherished island life to withstand the hardships of daily tasks. It must have been love or being overcome by beauty that kept them here.
The view over the Gilley house out across the field and bay is so quintessentially Maine.
Images painted by Fairfield Porter, N.C. Wyeth, and John Marin fill my head.
It's spectacular here.

Time to continue on. Trees begin to line the path, tall fir trees, and spruce. A lighthouse becomes visible, sort of, as it is now overcome by the surrounding woods. The wooded path across the center or the island is cool and moss filled, it is magical and lovely.
The sound of the ocean can be heard.

The shadowy wooded path opens to huge rocks, open sky and an ocean that goes on forever, or at least to the Canary Islands!

The Dance Floor

Gigantic flat granite boulders became known as "The Dance Floor". The name originating when in the past island settler's would hold dances here on these pink granite dance floors. It is quite an amazing structure that the sea and nature have created.
Beyond dancing this makes a great site for a picnic, followed by some sketching!

For a look at a sketch that James drew from here, and then took back to the studio where he made a painting
click on Aponovich 52, week # 19

Timing is everything. Our "Dance Floor" picnic was delicious and some sketches made, the weather's turning..... time to head back to the boat. Retracing our steps back, the island is again breathtakingly beautiful and even more dramatic with the
weather over Mount Desert .

Tide going out, weather changing, it is time to board to boat and return to Northeast Harbor.
This has been one of those "days of wonder".
This day will make for memories of a day spent with special friends on a classic Maine Island. I am certain more than one painting will be created from this group to remember our island adventure.

The excerpt below is from a letter written by artist John Marin, to photographer Alfred Stieglitz (1932), might just reflect the thoughts of the Gilley family and early island settler's of Maine's islands.

she makes you to - pull - pull - pull - she makes you to - haul - haul - haul -
and when she's thrashed you a plenty - between those thrashings
she's lovely
she smiles
she's beautiful
with an unforgettable loveliness - an unforgettable beauty
turns masculine - borders big and mighty - against - the big and mighty Atlantic."