Rockland, Maine, is a small town of less than 10,000 residents, so it is quite amazing to find that it is home to a world class museum. In order to understand the Farnsworth Art Museum, you must realize that it was created through the gift of Lucy Farnsworth. Thanks to a generous inheritance from her father and brother James, and to her own business acumen, Lucy left a sizable estate. She directed that the bulk of it be used to establish the William A. Farnsworth Library and Art Museum (now known simply as the Farnsworth Art Museum) as a memorial to her father. The museum officially opened in August, 1948.
A short video is offered in the Morehouse Wing which you can watch to learn a little about the founding of the museum. Of course, the fact that Andrew Wyeth summered here is a big contributing factor to the museum as well. Not only does he have a gallery, he and his father and brother have the Wyeth Center, which is temporary exhibit space located in the historic former United Methodist Church. We did not visit the Wyeth Center since our time was limited but most people who visit the main museum also visit the Wyeth Center.
Andrew Wyeth’s work is located in the main part of the museum; it is a very popular attraction and can get quite crowded. It is not really surprising, even though his main home is in Chadds Ford, Penn., he spent a great deal of time in Rockland and one of his most famous works, Christina’s World has as its subject Christina Olson who was a local resident. His painting Her Room had its own room in the museum. It is a colorless room, that sounds odd but the paintings are all almost entirely white which makes it quite striking. An unusual painting is called Dr. Syn and is a painting of a skeleton which is actually Wyeth own; he had X-rays done so he could see his bones.
This is a beautiful, light and airy museum that highlights the best in Maine, New England and American Art. They have a large collection, over 12,000 works of American landscapes, Impressionists and also contemporary art. A surprise find was an Andy Warhol silk screen in a hall in the Moorhouse Wing. The museum also owns several historic properties including the Olson Farm. The exhibits in the museum change frequently, so you will never get tired of visiting.
Allow an hour or two to visit the Farnsworth Art Museum, and if you want to visit the Wyeth Center, it is just down the street. The museum has a very nice gift shop and a parking lot is located across from the entrance where, if you are lucky, you will be able to park. Check the museum website for the current exhibits as well as open times and entrance fees.
Photo provided by the Farnsworth Art Museum.