The Farnsworth Art Museum in Rockland, Maine highlights works of art from American artists primarily from the late 18th to 20th century in its 20,000 square feet of exhibition space. The museum was founded and funded by Lucy Copeland Farnsworth who bequeathed in her will that one of the buildings she owned be converted into an art gallery and be named after her father. She was the daughter of one of Rockland’s most prominent businessman and in 1935, at her death, donated the sum of 1.3 million dollars to be used for the art gallery's establishment. The Farnsworth was opened to the public on August 15, 1948 through the auspices of her Board of Trustees and Robert Peabody Bellows.
The Farnsworth Art Museum highlights the works of American artists with associations to Maine and who have gained national attention for their works. The exhibits display American art at its finest. Walk through its many galleries and you will discover the names of artists associated with part of American art history such as Gilbert Stuart, Thomas Eakins, Thomas Sully, Fitz Henry Lane, Eastman Johnson, Childe Hassam, Frank Benson, and Maurice Prendergast. These prominent artists form part of the permanent collection of the Farnsworth Art Museum which is aptly titled "Maine in America".
The Farnsworth Art Museum has a sensible layout and visitors often comment that this layout makes it easy to navigate the museum. Although the museum spans two buildings and many galleries, you will still have a relaxing time just looking at the works of art that it offers. Because the museum houses more than 10,000 works of art, there is always something new on display. The Farnsworth Art Museum also offers a large library that is housed in its Rockland, Maine campus.
The museum is also known nationally for the The Wyeth Center which features three generations of America’s first family of American art, the Wyeth family. In this center you will be able to enjoy the works of N.C (Newell Convers) Wyeth, Andrew Wyeth, and Jamie (James Browning) Wyeth. It is one of only two centers in the United States dedicated to the artistry of the Wyeth family.
N.C Wyeth is one of America’s greatest illustrators who illustrated for 112 books, including Robinson Crusoe and Treasure Island. He also produced more than 3,000 realist paintings in his lifetime. His son, Andrew Wyeth, was also a realist painter, referred to as “Painter of the People”. One of Andrew Wyeth’s most famous works is Christina’s World (1948), depicting his neighbor Christina Olson. Jamie Wyeth is Andrew’s second son, who is also a realist painter. He prefers oil as his medium while his father worked mostly with watercolor and tempera. Jamie’s posthumous portrait of John F. Kennedy is one of his most famous works.
N.C Wyeth’s works are shown at the Linda Bean Folkers Gallery, Marylouise Tandy Cowan Gallery features the works of Jamie Wyeth, and the Hadlock Galleries and Study Center contain Andrew Wyeth’s works.
The Farnsworth Art Museum also houses the second largest collection of the works of prominent sculptor Louise Nevelson. Nevelson, a renowned sculptor in the twentieth century, was born in Russia but grew up and spent her adolescent years in Maine. She was a very prominent abstract expressionist sculptor who liked to work with everyday, commonly discarded things to create her works of art. Her works of sculpture still inspire artists and sculptors to this day.
Because of its mission to establish Maine’s place in the American art world, the collections in the Farnsworth Art Museum also contains quilts and samples of American craftspeople from recent American history. As a result, you can also view folk art and ship models in this museum.
Two historic homes are part of the museum’s properties as well, the Farnsworth Homestead and the Olson House. The Farnsworth Homestead is the home of benefactor Lucy Farnsworth. It is maintained with its original furnishings and serves as an historic example of the lifestyle of an upperclass family living in the late 19th century. The Olson House located in Cushing, Maine was the house that inspired “Christina’s World,” Andrew Wyeth’s most famous painting. The Farnsworth Homestead was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1973 and The Olson House in 1993. Both houses are open for viewing by the public.
For more information about the Farnsworth Art Museum, visit their website at farnsworthmuseum.org