A word seems hardly enough when you consider the creative mind and talent of mural artist Rufus Porter ( 1792-1884). Besides earning a living as a self taught artist and inventor, he also played the violin, gave dance lessons, built a camera obscura to aid with portrait painting, devised a revolving rifle, and was the founder of the magazine Scientific American which is still in circulation today. I admire a person with such creative energy!
The museum itself was once a private home where religious services took place on Sundays. To the right of the entry, Rufus Porter was commissioned by the owner to paint murals which cover the walls. This is the only room in the house painted with murals. I tried to imagine being one of the early worshippers who sat through a service in this setting. Although Porter tends towards realism I still find an element of fantasy in his landscapes. I know I would have loved to spend time gazing at the quiet scenes of well kept lawns, tidy homes, and peaceful water swiftly but carefully applied with the aid of stencils.
One fact that struck me during our visit was that between 1819-1823 Rufus Porter walked from Portland, Maine to Harrisonburg, Virginia making stops in Boston, New York, Philadelphia, Baltimore, and Washington D.C. I could imagine that there is still a possibility that more Porter murals could be discovered even today!
In my opinion, I would not bring small children to this museum. It is tight quarters. The murals are within a shoulders breadth and adults were cautioned to have care not to touch! No photography permitted, to my disappointment. No running water. However, the docents are excellent. Very knowledgeable and quite helpful. They took time to chat with us and discuss different aspects of Rufus Porter and his contemporaries. They recommended books, which I promptly ordered and was glad I did! We came away with a greater appreciation for him and his work. I recommend books by Jean Lipman if you would like to know more about Rufus Porter. The books are filled with images of his artwork and inventions.
The museum will soon be moving to new quarters. In the meantime, the address is 67 North High Street, Bridgton Maine. Call ahead for hours 207-647-2828. www.rufusportermuseum.org