COASTAL MAINE ART & ARCHITECTURE
ARCHITECTURE: You can often trace the evolution of a place by its architecture, as styles evolve from basic structures to elaborate mansions. The primer below should help you with basic identification.
*Colonial (1600–1700): The New England house of the 17th century was a simple, boxy affair, often covered in shingles or rough clapboards. Don’t look for ornamentation; these homes were designed for basic shelter from the elements, and are often marked by prominent stone chimneys.
*Georgian (1700–1800): Ornamentation comes into play in the Georgian style, which draws heavily on classical symmetry. Georgian buildings were in vogue in England at the time, and were embraced by affluent colonists. Look for Palladian windows, formal pilasters, and elaborate projecting pediments. Portsmouth, New Hampshire, has abundant examples of later Georgian styles.
*Federal (1780–1820): Federal homes (sometimes called Adams homes) may best represent the New England ideal. Spacious yet austere, they are often rectangular or square, with low-pitched roofs and little ornament on the front, although carved swags or other embellishments are frequently seen near the roofline. Look for fan windows and chimneys bracketing the building. In Maine, excellent Federal-style homes are found throughout the region in towns such as Kennebunkport, Bath, and Brunswick.
*Greek Revival (1820–60) and Gothic Revival (1840–80): These two styles—Greek Revival with its columned porticoes and triangular pediments, Gothic Revival with its mock turrets and castellations—didn’t catch on in Maine as they did in other parts of the country, although a few examples can still seen here and there. Maine’s late-19th-century tourist boom, however, perfectly coincided with the rise of . . .
*Victorian (1860–1900): This is a catchall term for the jumble of mid- to late-19th-century styles that emphasized complexity and opulence. Perhaps the best-known Victorian style—almost a caricature—is the tall and narrow Addams Family–style house, with mansard roof and prickly roof cresting. You’ll find these scattered throughout the region. The Victorian style also includes squarish Italianate homes with wide eaves and unusual flourishes, such as the outstanding Victoria Mansion in Portland.
*Shingle (1880–1900): This uniquely New England style quickly became preferred for vacation homes on the Maine coast. Marked by a profusion of gables, roofs, and porches, they are typically covered with shingles from roofline to foundation.
*Modern (1900–present): Maine has produced little in the way of notable modern architecture; you won’t find a Fallingwater (one of Frank Lloyd Wright’s best-known works, near Pittsburgh), though you might spy a surprising modernist building somewhere on an enclave of wealth such as Mount Desert Island or Cape Elizabeth—if you can get past the security.
ART: New England is also justly famous for the art it has produced, particularly the seascapes painted on Cape Cod, along the coast of Maine, and by Hudson River School artists such as Thomas Cole and his student Frederic Church. Some of the other artists who have memorably painted New England landscapes and seascapes include Winslow Homer (1836–1910), Fairfield Porter (1907–75), John Marin (1870–1953), Neil Welliver (1929–2005), and Andrew Wyeth (1917–2009), he of the iconic Christina’s World, painted in a coastal Maine field.
To showcase these works, and the works of other local and traveling artists, there are a surprising number of excellent art museums and galleries in Maine, including the Portland Museum of Art, the Farnsworth Museum in Rockland, and the Ogunquit Museum of American Art in Ogunquit.
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