Sunday, May 22, 2011

Ogunquit artist, John Neill

One of the most beautiful spots on the Maine coast is Perkins Cove in Ogunquit. Known as an artists haven for well over 100 years, the Cove has always attracted many artists since Charles Woodbury started his school there. During the 1960's and 1970's there was one artist by the name of John Neill, who also painted in the Cove.

I like John Neill's art, because its a  prime example of  Maine naive art. Neill painted what he saw. He used hard strokes and captured the  rugged landscape of Maine, Marginal Way, and the wild north Atlantic waters. John Neill painted tourist art.  He painted en plein aire in Perkins Cove, next to his blue boxy van, that was always parked next to Jackie's Restaurant.
John was a true artist, and came from a celebrated art background. His father Harmon Neill, was a listed artist and his mother, Angela Ward was a ballerina who performed at Carnegie Hall. Neill's Great Grandmother was a Romanov, and  cousin to Czar Nichols. She was also a ballerina in her native Russia.
                                                                                                                (courtesy of John Cavaretta)

Like many artists, there were tough times. In 1985 he painted this interpretation of the Village Food Market in exchange for food. John Neill was injured in hit and run  vehicle accident, and had metal plate in his head and suffered from seizures.
                                                                                                       (collection from Ogunquit Beach Inn)

John Neill had a Van Gogh quality with his art. He used hard strokes and painted nature they way he saw it. He did several paintings of the Marginal Way. One of his favorite subjects was to paint the drawbridge at Perkins Cove which had to be raised to allow sailing vessels underneath.


                                                                 (Courtesy of the Ogunquit Heritage Museum)



19 comments:

  1. John Neill was my father, unfortunately we were separated when I was 6 (and my two brothers) I met him for what to me was the first time at 16. I actually came to Ogunquit - on the bus, mind you! And spent a week or so with him. Then throughout the rest of his life we had a sporadic relationship via postcards (always with a drawing). In 1999 I came to Ogunquit and spoke to a few people who knew him and took some things out of his van that was out in a field (junk yard?). In the 80's or their abouts the youngest Neill son, James came to visit him, too. You have no idea how happy I am to find this page - it made me cry. Thank you for celebrating his art and his contribution to the place he loved. If anyone has any stories or info they'd like to add or tell me about - my name is Peggi (Neill) Karnes and my email is maggiek@bellsouth.net - thank you!!

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  2. I have a few of his paintings I am thinking of selling. Is there a collector I should contact

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    1. I would be interested in seeing them and possibly purchasing. I am a recent fan and love the Ogunquit area. Please contact me at cincyartsfan@hotmail.com if you are still interested. Thanks

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    2. I would be interested in speaking with you regarding the sale of your paintings . Please see my post and comments regarding John which I sent today ...Paul..... I can be reached at... nautilusislandltd@myfairpoint.net

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  3. My husband purchased a painting of the Island House for my bithday in 1986, it's hanging over my desk in my office. I love the simple beauty of this painting. How blessed was your father, to work in Perkins Cove, doing what he loved. Claire Radke

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  4. Hello, this is James Neill the youngest son of John. I would be interested in any stories or art that anyone has. My email Neillfamagain@gmail.com. As my sister mentioned I did finally visit my father as an adult in 1991 and again shortly before he passed in 1993.During those visits I was able to meet my relatives from that side of the family. I was only 13 months old when I was taken from Maine. I didn't see my father again until I was 29. In a visit in 07 I found quite a bit of his and Harmon's art in a restaurant in Ogunquit.

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    1. Hi James:
      Jonathan's Restaurant has a large art collection. There are several painting from John and Harmon. In our town hall (also known as the Dunaway centre-named after James Dunaway) there is a painting by Harmon Neill. http://www.jonathansrestaurant.com/gallery_detail.cfm?PID=57&SO=4&GalleryID=1
      Also, the Librarians at the Ogunquit Memorial Library also may have info on John Neill. I belive one of his in-laws works there.

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    2. Also, the artist Norman West and his partner Leonard were friends of John Neill....Hope this helps.

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    3. Hi James and Peggy,
      My family had a summer home in Ogunquit, and every year we loved to visit John Neill's painting truck in perkins Cove. My mother said that he was sad that he was separated from hi children. When I grew up, I used to pick him up when he was hitchhiking and gave him rides. I bought a beautiful painting of a scene of the marginal way in fall with the ocean in the background. I love the beauty of the painting, and do not know why his paintings are not valuable. My son needs money for college. I would hate to part with it, but may look into selling it. Your father was very talented, and always seemed to be kind and gentle. Leah

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    4. Hi James,
      My name is Lynn Varn. I ran across your request for info requarding John Neill...I don't know anything about him, but I do know a little about your grandfather Harmon Neill. My aunt was married to him at one time and I have a large portrait that he painted of her...Her name was Cortez Lanier, she was my father's sister. I have an old article about an exibition that he was having in New York after they were married. They divorced, and she married a man from Maine. They ended up owning and running two resturants in Perkins Cove. One was the Oarweed Lobster Pound and a small one The Lobster Shack. I was able to visit her there once, and Vice President George Bush and his wife Barbara Bush and another couple were eating lunch at the Lobster Shack. We were all introduced to them....Anyway, my aunt and her husband lived in Ogunquit. I can't help wonder if she had any relationship with your Dad. Surely she knew who he was, if he was parked there everyday. She has passed, I wish I knew more. If you would like to e-mail me, you may. lvarn123@bellsouth.net Please pass this info on to your sister Peggi

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    6. Hi Peggi and James,
      My dad grew up in Ogunquit, as did his father, uncles, aunts, and grandfather before him. My parents own Swamp John's in the Cove - they've been there since 1971. Call ahead or email them to make sure that my dad (Tom) is there on your next visit and I can almost guarantee that dad will have a couple of hours worth of interesting stories to tell you about your dad and the scene in the Cove. I grew up running around the Cove all summer, and I remember your dad's van. I was pretty young then (born in '81), so I don't remember many details, but I do recall that he was kind to me, and I considered him a friendly face.
      Best wishes.
      Jackie

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  5. My wife and I have a wonderful oil by John that we purchased from him in 1989. It is similar to the painting from the Ogunquit Beach Inn collection shown above. It is a constant reminder of a fabulous year when I worked for WGBH in Boston and our wanderings around Maine and the North Eastern states. We spent a fascinating hour or so talking to him about his work and the area. We found him to be a warm and gentle man and he later wrote to us saying there was the possibility of a retrospective of his work and would we be prepared to loan the painting. Of course, we replied, but I gather the exhibition did not eventuate. He also sent us an original photograph of himself painting the drawbridge at Perkins Cove now in the Ogunquit Heritage Museum. It was taken by Robert G Leming of 5048 Dover Street, Arovada (?), Colorado 80002. I would imagine he'd have more of John if anyone's interested. We have always planned to return and are still planning!
    Chris & Karin McCullough
    Sydney, Australia

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  6. I always loved John Neill's paintings. It was great to find this post and to be reminded of him. Thank you!

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  7. I knew John wayyyy back when he drove an old black sedan , vintage 1930's or 40's , and arrived almost everyday in the cove to paint the day away . He sometimes drove to other locations to paint but mainly it was at his corner spot in the cove parking lot . The second floor studio I rented from the late artist John Laurent looked over John Neill's sedan and easels . Most often he would view his ever changing oceanfront subject in a mirror which he held in his hand .He told me that this technique and the ever changing lights and tides gave him an endless supply of totally unique perspectives for his art . As a young long haired hippie/artist type , it was beyond my means to buy one of John's paintings back then . I would certainly be interested in purchasing some of his work now if anyone is interested in selling . I have a fondness for all of the artists that called Ogunquit home for a time ...... Paul email = nautilusislandltd@myfairpoint.net

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    1. there are 2 John Neill painting's in the Hap Moore auction June 28, 2014 10:00 A.M. York, Maine

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  8. I have a wonderful Harmon Neilll charcoal drawing of my mother done in NYC in 1929 which I want to donate to the Ogunquit Museum. Harmon was a friend of my father, Blake Clark. Both my mother's family and my father's had homes in Oqubquit - I spent my summers in Perkins Cove, next to the Myron's house and 2 doors up from the Whistling Oyster. These pictures brought back many memories.

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  9. shore rd. 1959-1982 I spent summers at a home at the entrance to the cove and watched John paint from his black sedan as well as a van- my mother bought 2 large oil paintings of perkins cove from him that she gave me. My happy childhood memories include his smiling face and weathered arms, tanned from the sun, leaning over canvases. I found an envelope he had drawn on the front of and sent to my mother, wishing her a Happy Holiday... probably 1970's. May he rest in peace.

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  10. I spent 14 summers at our house off of Shore Road, now called Seawatch path or something like that. I fished off of the Marion with Capt. Al. My aunt was good friends with John and was Capt. Al's draw for the fishing boat most times. He always wanted to paint a picture of me and I regret not having the courage to do so. I was probably 6 or 7 at that time. Capt. Al and John had a love/hate relationship. Al called him the seagull and John called him a codger as smelly as the fish he caught. It was rare that the two crossed paths, even though their lairs were only across the parking lot, but very comical when they did.

    John Neill was a character, full of life, comedy, insight and love of Perkins Cove. He talked to everyone who passed by.
    I remember well John's black sedan, it was full as full could be. I would love to find a source of John's paintings as I would love to purchase one. Thanks for the memories and rest in peace, old friend.

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