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The Big Picture

Premier works highlight UMaine’s permanent collection

William Gropper (American, 1897-1977), ''Plate from Heaven,'' 1963, Oil on canvas, 50 x 40'', Gift of Sophie Gropper

William Gropper (American, 1897-1977), ''Plate from Heaven,'' 1963, Oil on canvas, 50 x 40'', Gift of Sophie Gropper

It almost goes without saying that the University of Maine Museum of Art has work by Andrew Wyeth, Winslow Homer and John Marin. It is Maine, after all.

But the permanent collection of nearly 7,000 pieces also boasts a Warhol and a Picasso, a seminal print by critically acclaimed artist Kara Walker and a gilt-framed oil by Hudson River School painter George Inness.

The name-dropping goes on.

“I don’t think people know the richness of the collection,” says Laurie Hicks, a UMaine art professor who served as the museum’s interim director. “It isn’t just the richness of our photography collection, it’s also the many fine 19th- and 20th-century prints and paintings. We have diverse artists bringing different perspectives to their work and to the museum collection.”

It is, in many ways, a who’s who of American — and, more recently, international — art. Established in 1946 by founding director Vincent Hartgen, the collection reflects the passion of its stewards. Hartgen loved works on paper because he could get top-tier art on a land-grant university budget, a tradition Diana Hulick and Charles Shepard followed. Wally Mason brought a keen eye and a yen for photography into the mix. And George Kinghorn, who became the museum’s director in June, will undoubtedly leave a footprint as he further grows the collection. But one thing — the museum’s mission — remains constant.

“This is the only publicly owned museum fine art collection in the state of Maine,” Hicks says. “It acts as a public trust. A role and responsibility that includes preserving, maintaining, supporting and making accessible the University of Maine Museum of Art’s evolving collection.”