Carl Sprinchorn, Maine's 'King of the Woods,' featured this summer at museum of art

An exhibit of some three dozen works by Carl Sprinchorn, renowned for the art he made while exploring the Maine wilderness over four decades, opens with a reception at 7 p.m. Friday, June 7 at the Bates College Museum of Art. The exhibit runs through Aug. 23. Admission to the museum is open to the public free of charge.

Titled Carl Sprinchorn: King of the Woods, the exhibit will include paintings, drawings, watercolors and gouaches representing all aspects of Sprinchorn’s Maine — lumbering operations, hunters and trappers, dramatic skies and spectacular foliage. “The Spectator” and the painting commonly known as “Lightning Over Millinocket” are two of the most familiar works that will be on display.

Gail R. Scott, a Presque Isle-based independent scholar and curator known for her research on pioneering modernist Marsden Hartley, guest-curated the exhibit for the museum and wrote the 64-page, fully illustrated catalogue (retailing for $20).

Through the exhibited works and her catalogue essay, which combines biography and insightful analysis of the artwork, Scott constructs a masterful introduction to Sprinchorn (1887-1971). Between his first Maine visit, in 1909, and when he left for the last time, in 1952, she writes, “Sprinchorn returned again and again, drawn like a magnet to its deep woods. It was Maine, more than any other rural place that he visited or lived in, that nurtured the meditative, solitary aspects of his psyche.”

Scott traces the progression of Sprinchorn’s Maine art from his early (and only) seascapes, through the Monson snow paintings that established his grip on the Maine wilderness, to the mature depictions of lumbering operations and unspoiled settings made during his years at Shin Pond.

“Sprinchorn’s agenda . . . in his best work is twofold,” Scott writes. “He wants us to be absolutely certain about the authenticity of the subject being represented, but he takes great pains to arrive at this end by what are essentially the same means employed by an abstract artist: figure/ground relationships that have nothing or little to do with normal perspective; expressive, rather than local color harmonies; and application techniques that relish the pure act of painting.”

As for the exhibit title, she notes, Sprinchorn is often discussed in relation to his close friend and more renowned colleague, Marsden Hartley. (The Bates College Museum of Art was founded as a repository for works by Hartley, who was born in Lewiston.) She recounts how, when Hartley proposed that Sprinchorn find him quarters at Shin Pond so they could paint together, “Sprinchorn firmly and emphatically replied, ‘You can be King of the Coast. I will be King of the Woods.’ ”

Scott edited two volumes of Hartley’s writings and is author of the biography Marsden Hartley (Abbeville Press, 1988). Other Maine artists she has written about, along with Sprinchorn, include Harold Garde and Lucy Hayward Barker. Scott is a member (commissioner) of the Maine Arts Commission and a former chair of the Maine Alliance for Arts Education.

The Sprinchorn show in the Upper Gallery of the Bates College Museum of Art runs simultaneously with two exhibits in the Lower Gallery. Collection Highlights includes eight Hartley drawings and several recent acquisitions, mostly by Maine artists such as Brett Bigbee, William Thon and Winslow Homer. Also on display is a work by the 19th-century French artist Jean-Baptiste Corot — a “cliché-verre,” created by scratching an image into a coated glass plate that is then placed on photo-sensitive paper and exposed to light.

The Energy of the Dance is a photographic exhibit by Michael Philip Manheim, of Beverly, Mass. Manheim uses multiple exposures to depict dancers in action — in this case, performers from the renowned Bates Dance Festival, at which the photographer was an artist-in-residence last summer. More information about his work can be found at the Website:

In addition to works and other materials relating to Hartley, a Lewiston native, the museum’s holdings include a robust print collection and notable works by Maine artists with national significance, such as Dahlov Ipcar, the late William Thon, Neil Welliver and Charles Hewitt. It is the flagship museum for the Maine Art Museum Trail.

Admission is free. The museum is open 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Mon.-Sat. and 1 p.m.-5 p.m. Sun. For additional information, please call 207-786-6158.

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