Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

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September 17, 2012

Winslow Homer's Maine studio to open to public

(Continued)

After Homer died, the studio passed down among family members until it was inherited by Homer's great-grandnephew, Charles "Chip" Homer Willauer, who for many years lived in the studio in the summer months.

Willauer, 74, was concerned about the future of the building, worried that it would deteriorate over time and be lost to future generations. In 2006, he sold the structure to the Portland Museum of Art for $1.8 million.

The museum spent $2.8 million renovating the structure, including stabilizing the foundation, replacing the balcony, restoring a chimney, replacing windows and returning the exterior to its original green with brown trim. In all, the museum has raised $10.6 million in a fundraising campaign to pay for the purchase and renovation, an endowment, educational programs and exhibitions.

Willauer said he's thrilled with the finished work and happy he doesn't have to worry about the future of a building that was instrumental in Homer's life. But he's not so sure his great-great-uncle would have understood all the attention.

"I think that Winslow, who liked his privacy, would have been surprised by all the interest," Willauer said outside the studio.

The studio will be open for public tours beginning Sept. 25. To celebrate the opening, the museum is presenting an exhibition, "Weatherbeaten: Winslow Homer and Maine," featuring 38 of Homer's oils, watercolors and etchings that he produced in his studio. The exhibition opened on Saturday and runs through Dec. 30.

The museum will offer three tours of the studio a day, 10 people per tour, in the spring and the fall. Tickets are $55 per person and $30 for museum members. Details at http://www.portlandmuseum.org/ .

Because there's no public parking on Prouts Neck and the studio is located in a private residential neighborhood, visitors will have to take a shuttle van from the museum. Fewer than 4,000 people are expected to visit each year.

"This is a shrine," Bessire said. "This is really about a pilgrimage, and we always meant it to be that way."

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