PAINTINGS OF PORTLAND

By Carl Little and David Little

Down East Books, 2018

136 pages, $29.95

ISBN 978-1-60893-980-0

Swiss artist Paul Klee (1879-1940) once said: “Art does not reproduce the visible; rather, it makes it visible.” And the 132 paintings depicted in “Paintings Of Portland” make the city’s art history vibrantly visible.

Brothers Carl and David Little have created an excellent art history of Portland, revealed in their smart selection of paintings and fascinating historical narrative showcasing 200 years of Portland’s art and artists. Carl lives on Mount Desert Island and has written about the art of Dahlov Ipcar and Edward Hopper. David is a Portland artist.

The paintings range from 1830 to 2016 and offer a wide variety of media: watercolors, oils on canvas, linen, paper and panel, acrylics on canvas and board, along with mixed media and shaped frescoes. Scenes include landscapes, seascapes, buildings, parks, cemeteries, harbor, islands, waterfront, houses, gardens and historical events. And all are reproduced in brilliant color and detail.

Best, however, is the brothers’ presentation of the unusual and little-known art history of Portland’s artists. They tell of John Neal (1793-1876), thought to be America’s first art critic and organizer of the first major art show in Portland in 1838. Mary King Longfellow (1852-1943) was “Portland’s most revered 19th-century female painter” and was the famous poet’s niece. Winslow Homer (1836-1910) worked in a studio designed by famous architect John Calvin Stevens (1855-1940), himself an accomplished artist.

In addition to city scenes, artists also focused on historical events like the Civil War naval action in Portland harbor in 1863, Portland’s devastating Great Fire of 1866, world war shipbuilding and Portland’s Depression-era shantytown on Marginal Way. Learn about the unique “Brush’un” art movement and about a famous New Yorker magazine cartoonist’s hilarious vision of winter atop the Time and Temperature Building. Outstanding art history well told.

LOCH GARMAN: A NOVEL OF VIKING AGE IRELAND

By James L. Nelson

Fore Topsail Press, 2017

349 pages, $12.99

ISBN 978-0-69297-670-8

Ireland in the ninth century epitomized the brutality, oppression, greed and violence of the Dark Ages, with minor Irish kings and warrior monks fighting among themselves for land, slaves and power. And then the Vikings arrived.

“Loch Garman” is the seventh book in Maine author James Nelson’s “The Norsemen Saga,” historical novels based on tales of Vikings raiding, trading and settling on Ireland’s southeast coast. Nelson has won numerous awards for his fiction and nonfiction, and the Viking series is certainly worthy of recognition.

The year is 855 A.D. and Thorgrim Nightwolf, a Viking warlord, finds himself in a dangerous predicament. He and his men are stranded on the Irish coast with storm-damaged ships and no sails, in a wild country where all Irishmen are sworn enemies. Desperate for sailcloth and timber, Thorgrim makes a surprising deal with the abbot of Ferns monastery — the abbot will provide the materials if the Vikings will defend the monastery against a marauding Irish king seeking the legendary Treasure of St. Aiden.

Thorgrim is a savage warrior and savvy leader. He knows well “a strong arm kills, but a cunning mind keeps you alive.” And he has both. Meanwhile, the abbot’s warrior monk named Becc has other plans for the Vikings, beginning a complex, circular plot of treachery that seems to pit two Irish armies against each other, and Thorgrim is now not sure who he is to support.

When Thorgrim realizes the Vikings have been betrayed by everyone, his vengeance is swift and bloody, encouraged by what he learns is the real truth about the monastery’s legendary treasure. This is a suspenseful, exciting adventure, loaded with accurate historical details, clever plot twists and graphic, gory battle scenes. And the warrior monk may just win this time.

Bill Bushnell lives and writes in Harpswell.


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