A fire in Port Clyde, Maine, destroyed three paintings by Jamie Wyeth and one illustration by N.C. Wyeth. The fire on the night of Wednesday, September 27 wreaked havoc on the town’s idyllic dockside, destroying the Dip Net Restaurant, a general store, and the Wyeth Art Gallery. The downtown space serves as a community gathering place and a functional harbor for lobster fishing.

The St. George Fire Department arrived at the scene around 11pm last Wednesday and remained until 8:30pm the following evening. A fire at the Dip Net is suspected to have launched the blaze. The fire also damaged a wooden structure where a regular ferry departs for the island of Monhegan. 

An original illustration for Men of Concord was destroyed; N.C. Wyeth, “A Man of a Certain Probity and Worth, Immortal and Natural (New England; The Wood Sled)” (1936), oil on Renaissance panel, 34 1/2 x 28 3/8 inches (image courtesy Bonhams)

All of the gallery’s contents were destroyed, including an illustration by 20th-century American artist N.C. Wyeth from the 12-painting series Men of Concord (1936), which originally accompanied a book of Henry David Thoreau journal selections, and three original paintings by Jamie Wyeth, the artist’s grandson.

The Wyeth family has close ties to Maine. Illustrator N.C. Wyeth frequently depicted the state’s midcoast region from his summer home in Port Clyde, as did his son Andrew Wyeth. The latter’s famous painting “Christina’s World” (1948), on view at the Museum of Modern Art in New York, is set in South Cushing, a small town on the neighboring peninsula. Andrew Wyeth’s son Jamie is a realist painter who frequently depicts iconic scenes from the New England state and owns a home in the area.

“My family was quite saddened by the loss of the art,” Victoria Browning Wyeth, Andrew Wyeth’s granddaughter and Jamie Wyeth’s niece, told Hyperallergic. “We are particularly devastated by the lost N.C. Wyeth, which is irreplaceable since he is no longer alive.” She added that she was grateful that no one was injured.

The fire destroyed all of the works in the Wyeth Art Gallery and enveloped the majority of the building (image courtesy Victoria Browning Wyeth)

Port Clyde has long been a sanctuary for artists and boasts three small galleries. The town has been quick to show its support in the wake of last week’s fire. Online, community members posted old photographs and paintings of the intact dockside. A fundraiser will be held on Sunday, October 8, and people can make donations to the nonprofit St. George Community Development Corporation. A board of community members will decide on the allocation of the funds.

“The buildings were the heart of Port Clyde,” Wyeth said. “They were such an important place to us all and everyone is very much looking forward to rebuilding.” 

The remaining facade of the Wyeth Art Gallery (image courtesy Victoria Browning Wyeth)
Windows after the fire at the Wyeth Art Gallery (image courtesy Victoria Browning Wyeth)
Another destroyed work; Jamie Wyeth, “Snapper” (1982), mixed media on tone board, 30 x 40 inches (image courtesy Jamie Wyeth)
Three Jamie Wyeth paintings were burned in last week’s fire, including “Seagull” (2016), gesso, gouache and watercolor on toned paper board, 24 x 30 inches (image courtesy Jamie Wyeth)

Elaine Velie is a writer from New Hampshire living in Brooklyn. She studied Art History and Russian at Middlebury College and is interested in art's role in history, culture, and politics.

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