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Monday, 17 March 2014 11:36

Maine Museum Acquires Antique Camera Once Owned by Winslow Homer

Mawson & Swan camera once owned by Winslow Homer. Mawson & Swan camera once owned by Winslow Homer. Bowdoin College Museum of Art, Brunswick, ME

The Bowdoin College Museum of Art in Brunswick, Maine has acquired a late 19th-century camera originally owned by the American artist Winslow Homer. The dry plate camera was manufactured around 1880 and will enhance the museum’s existing collection of archival material related to Homer’s life and work.

The camera, which was donated to the museum by Neal Paulsen, a long-time resident of Maine, was designed for amateur photographers and renowned for its portability and ease of use. It was manufactured by Mawson & Swan, a photography business in England. Homer purchased the camera in 1882, during a two-year residence in Cullercoats, a small fishing village in northeast England. The date, “Aug 15, 1882,” and Homer’s initials are inscribed into the camera’s wooden plate holder.

Frank Goodyear, Co-Director of the Bowdoin College Museum of Art, said, “We are so pleased to receive this exciting gift, which complements our current holdings of Homer’s work and documentation perfectly. The camera highlights Homer’s varying artistic interests, and helps to illuminate a lesser-known side of one of America’s greatest painters.”

Homer is one of the foremost figures in American art and is well known for his seascapes and marine paintings. Born in Boston, Massachusetts, Homer was an avid traveler and spent time living and working in New York City, Paris, and England, among other places. However, during his years in Prout’s Neck, Maine, Homer produced some of his most defining masterpieces. Homer moved to Maine in 1883 and spent most of his time working in his studio, a former carriage house, just 75  feet from the ocean. Homer remained in Prout’s Neck on his family’s estate until his death in 1910. Homer’s paintings from this period are defined by their crashing waves, rocky coasts, and his expert use of light.

The Bowdoin College Museum of Art has a special exhibition on Homer and photography scheduled for August 2015. The show will feature the recently acquired camera alongside photographs taken by Homer.

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