Andrew Winter (1892-1958)

Andrew Winter (1892-1958)

Many of America’s most revered artists have painted their finest works on the diverse island system off the coast of Maine, including Winslow Homer, Childe Hassam, and several generations of the Wyeth family. Andrew Winter, a rugged and often solitary figure, found his muse on Monhegan, spending even the cruelest of winters among the hardy fishermen and craggy shores of the island, located twelve miles from the mainland.

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In his Self-Portrait at Below Zero, Lobster Cove, now in the permanent collection of the Farnsworth Museum in Rockland, Maine, Winter portrays himself in his glory; gloved hands grip a paint-laden brush, while rosy cheeks and a lividly red nose peak out from below a heavily brimmed hat. Winter began visiting Monhegan in the late 1920s, and became a veritable installation on the island after 1936, when he settled there year-round with his wife and fellow artist Mary Taylor. Having cultivated a fondness for painting in winter, the artist would often set out in his small rowboat, weather permitting, to capture the coastal terrain from the most dramatic vantage points. 

The rugged sea that surrounds the mere square mile of Monhegan was not unfamiliar to Winter.  A native of Estonia, the artist began his career aboard square riggers while just a teenager, and soon became a roving mariner aboard American and British steamships. In 1921, he achieved United States citizenship and briefly severed his ties to the ocean by enrolling at the National Academy of Design. He won the Mooney traveling fellowship to Rome and returned to New York and to critical acclaim over the ensuing years.  

Winter’s rough exterior, when combined with his artistic inclination, puzzled many of his acquaintances. A 1937 review in The Philadelphia Ledger commented on the artist’s unusual appearance:

 “Winter’s arms, heavily tattooed with mermaids, geisha girls, dragons, sea-horses, tropical birds and bathing beauties of all climes and races, have not interfered with his strenuous rise to artistic fame.”[1] While the island life offered complete isolation, he maintained ties to numerous galleries and associations, and received awards at the Pennsylvania Academy, the National Academy and the Salmagundi Club, among others. His oil and watercolor paintings were exhibited across the country at such venues as the Corcoran Gallery, the Currier Gallery, the Cranbrook Academy, the Art Institute of Chicago, the Ogunquit Art Club, and Babcock and Grand Central galleries of New York. Winter held memberships to the American Watercolor Society, the National Academy, the Salmagundi Club, and the Allied Artists of America.  

Winter’s oils of Black Head, Manana, Pulpit Rock, Lobster Cove and other familiar scenes of Monhegan are currently held in numerous public and private collections nationwide, including the National Academy, the Pennsylvania Academy, the Cranbrook Academy and the Mint Museum of Art in Charlotte, North Carolina.

[1] As quoted in Pamela Belanger, Maine in America: American Art at the Farnsworth Art Museum. (University Press of New England, 2000) p. 142.

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