Betty Parsons in Maine

Katherine Bogden

Betty Parsons - Moonlight, Maine, 1972

Betty Parsons, "Moonlight-Maine," 1972, acrylic on canvas, 24 x 20 inches

I cannot remember a time in my life when I wasn’t deeply in love with the state of Maine. There is something in the wild, coastal waters and thick, old-growth woods that instantly casts away the urbanite in me and calls forth my rural roots. For someone working in the field of 19th and 20th century arts, this is probably a good thing, for countless painters have traveled to our easternmost state to paint and take in the area’s plethora of natural beauty.

These works are, for the most part, easy to recognize—sometimes almost down to the exact location. There are others, however, that represent the state in a less literal manner. One such painting is Moonlight—Maine by Betty Parsons. Intrigued by this dramatic painting, we recently decided to see what more there was to know about Betty Parsons and my favorite state.

Although it is well-known Parsons traveled widely, we didn’t know if she had spent extensive time in Maine or merely passed through. What first clued us in that she might have spent extensive time there was a very brief quote from a 1975 New Yorker profile written by Calvin Tompkins in which Parsons states:

After Europe, I went out to Wyoming for three weeks and stayed with my friend Hope Williams, who has a ranch near Cody. I did a lot of painting there. And then I was at my cottage in Maine for two weeks. Continue reading