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SACO MUSEUM ACQUIRES CIRCA 1850 SACO RIVER LANDSCAPE

The Saco Museum is thrilled to announce the purchase of a mid-nineteenth-century landscape of the Saco River in Limington, Maine, by painter William Russell Smith (1812-1896). The painting is entitled "Sawyer’s Mountain from the Saco" and dates to around 1850.

"This lovely local landscape by a nationally recognized artist is a priceless addition to our collection," said Leslie Rounds, Executive Director of the Saco Museum’s parent institution, the Dyer Library Association. "We’re so pleased and proud that the Saco Museum is becoming a repository for these Saco River scenes."

Born in Glasgow, Scotland, Russell Smith (as he became known professionally), emigrated to Pennyslvania with his family in 1891. After studying painting at a fledgling art school in Pittsburgh, he soon developed a successful career in painting theatrical scenery and panoramas (a kind of large-scale painting on fabric; a rare existing example, not by Smith, is also in the Saco Museum's collection). This work eventually led to an interest in painting landscapes on canvas, and he became known as the leading landscape painter in Philadelphia in his day. He traveled widely, both in the United States and overseas, to identify subjects for his landscapes; one of his more frequently visited sites was the Saco River Valley. The area became so important to him artistically and personally that his son, Xanthus (who was also a painter), eventually bought a summer home on Casco Bay, and for a while the entire family divided its time among Maine, Philadelphia, and other travel destinations.

The acquisition of this painting announces the museum's renewed collecting focus on the entire breadth of the Saco River Valley, from the Atlantic to the White Mountains of New Hampshire. It joins other Saco River Valley landscapes in the museum's collection by Albert Bierstadt, Gibeon Elden Bradbury, Alfred Thompson Bricher, Charles Henry Granger, William Stoodley Gookin, and others. It was purchased from W. M. Schwind, Jr. Antiques and Fine Arts in Yarmouth, Maine, where proprietor Bill Schwind referred to the painting as a little jewel."

Photo caption: William Russell Smith (born Scotland, 1812-1896), Sawyer’s Mountain from the Saco, circa 1850, oil on paper. Saco Museum purchase, 2009.