Harrison Brown

Harrison Bird Brown was born in 1831 in Portland, Maine, and is best known for his White Mountain landscapes and marine paintings of Maine’s Casco Bay. By 1860 Brown was being praised as a leading American marine painter. Landscape painting was popular in the mid nineteenth century, thanks in part to the influence of Charles Codman (1800-1842), whose paintings were collected for their romantic sentiment. It is possible that Brown saw examples of Codman’s poetic paintings, and was influenced by his works.

Brown was one of the early artists to paint the coastline of Maine’s Monhegan Island, and he depicted the headlands as awesome, mystical forces. Humanity versus nature, and the human relationship to nature, themes prevalent in mid and late nineteenth century literature and philosophy, figured frequently in his seascapes. He often painted in the White Mountains as well, and his name can be found in the guest registers of many places artists frequented there. The coast of Maine was also a favorite painting venue of Brown’s for over thirty years. He depicted the wholesome outdoor environment of the state, with special fondness for the Casco Bay area and Grand Manan, an island off the coast of New Brunswick, Canada.

He also produced two widely distributed illustrations of Crawford Notch for the Maine Central Railroad in 1890. Brown exhibited at the National Academy of Design in New York from 1858 to 1860, and at the Boston (Massachusetts) Athenaeum and Philadelphia (Pennsylvania) Centennial Exposition in 1876. By 1892 he had become the best known native Maine painter of his time, and gained fame for himself and the State with a large canvas in the Maine pavilion of the 1893 World’s Colombian Exposition in Chicago, Illinois. In 1892 he was elected president of the Portland Society of Art. That same year, however, he moved to England to be with his only surviving child, a daughter, and spent the last twenty-three years of his life there. Most of his paintings were completed in New England before he moved to London,
but he continued to paint until his death in 1915. Harrison Bird Brown’s works can be seen at the Peabody Essex Museum in Salem, Massachusetts, and at the Portland Museum of Art in Maine.