Images of Maine by famed photographer Berenice Abbott to be shown at Museum of Art

"Balancing Act" (c. 1965), gelatin silver print by Berenice Abbott. Museum purchase.

“Balancing Act” (c. 1965), gelatin silver print by Berenice Abbott. Museum purchase.

Images of Maine by famed 20th-century photographer Berenice Abbott will be exhibited this fall at the Bates College Museum of Art.

Opening Sept. 13 and showing through Dec. 14 is the exhibition Selections from Berenice Abbott’s “Portrait of Maine.Showing through the same period is Redefining The Multiple: 13 Japanese Printmakers.

The Abbott images were published in her 1968 book A Portrait of Maine, and the original photographs in Selections were acquired for the Bates museum’s permanent collection from 2005 to 2007.

The exhibitions mark the reopening of the Bates College Museum of Art following a summer spent installing a new, state-of-the-art LED lighting system designed to both reduce the museum’s environmental footprint and improve the museum viewing experience for visitors.

The museum is open from 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Monday through Saturday, and until 7 p.m. Wednesdays during the academic year. For more information, please call 207-786-6158.

“The museum acquired the Abbott images because they are a terrific piece of a document of Maine by one of America’s foremost 20th-century photographers,” says museum curator William Low. “They also complement our collection with its core of works by Marsden Hartley and his Modernist contemporaries.”

Abbott (1898-1991) is well-known for her portraits of artists and intellectuals in Paris in the 1920s, her iconic photographs of New York City from the 1930s and her pioneering scientific photography of the 1940s and ’50s.

Among her projects was the documentation, in the early 1950s, of the entire length of U.S. Route 1, spanning some 2,370 miles from Key West, Fla., to Fort Kent, Maine. This adventure introduced Abbott to Maine, a state that so captivated her that she moved to the small town of Monson in the 1960s.

Abbott went on to create a significant body of work documenting life in her new home state. A Portrait of Maine, on which she collaborated with writer, artist and friend Chenoweth Hall, was her final book and comprises photographs from across the state in Abbott’s signature documentary style.

While Portrait was organized into themes of nature, work, play and towns, the Bates exhibition focuses on work, specifically logging in the mid-1960s, as the industry was entering a major period of change driven by technological advances and environmental concerns.

In particular, the practice of using rivers to transport timber was entering its final years as Abbott was making these images. While lumbering remains an important part of Maine’s economy, nowadays “it’s hard for us to imagine the scale of the drives that moved logs by river to the mills and ports, a practice that ended in 1976,” says Low.