As part of Maine’s Bicentennial, the Tides Institute & Museum of Art mounted an exhibition of works from its collections ranging in date from 1820 to the present. In addition, the Tides Institute will publish a Bicentennial book featuring 100 works from its collections and the stories behind the works and how they came into the Tides Institute’s collection. Each week, one of the selected works will be featured in our weekly online posting, CulturePass, to this region’s cultural activities and on our website here.
This week’s piece is a small oil on board painting by Hungarian-American artist, Sandor Bernath (1892-1985) of a coastal scene with a central element of the seining of a herring weir. Without any notation on the painting, presumably the painting is of a scene along the eastern coast of Maine or southwestern New Brunswick as Bernath lived in Eastport, Maine for about 20 years beginning in the mid-1920s. The painting likely dates to the 1930s. Little is known about Bernath and his work along this border region as few works of his related to this region have been discovered. Bernath was born in Hungary and came to the United States when he was young and settled first in New York City. During his long career, he is perhaps best known for his watercolors of sailing yachts, but he also painted coastal scenes, including using oil, such as his painting described here. At one point, Bernath was a student of Edward Hopper. In the early 1920s, he began to paint coastal scenes of New England. In the late 1920s, he moved to Eastport, Maine, where he lived until at about 1945. While Eastport remained his primary residence, Bernath visited and painted in a number of American art colonies during this time. Where he went after Eastport is unclear, but he spent the last years of his life in South America. The painting here was located at the Cooley Gallery in Connecticut and the Tides Institute contacted the gallery about purchasing the painting. The price was $5,000 and the institute was able to raise the funds to secure the painting for its collections. Several years afterwards, a supporter of the institute donated a watercolor by Bernath of downtown Eastport, Maine. There must be many other paintings by Bernath of this region that remain to be discovered.