Every morning over coffee, I leaf through art online. Yesterday, I ran across a picture of an Adirondack lake and was struck again by how closely related in texture, subject and history the Adirondack Preserve (ADK) is to Maine.
While the Hudson River School painters are most closely associated with the Catskills, they ventured north into the Adirondacks and Vermont’s Green Mountains as well. Lake George is the most easily-accessible Adirondack lake. Ringed with development today, it is the antithesis of the unspoiled wilderness. Still, it’s big, and in the 19th century it was open enough that many Hudson River school painters went there to work.
Winslow Homer is closely identified with both Maine and the Adirondack hamlet of Minerva, located in Essex County. He occasionally traveled back there to paint even after building his studio in Prouts Neck. Homer scooted to Maine as soon as his family obligations and finances would permit.
When I lived in New York, I would travel regularly to the ADK to paint. It was a few hours from my home, whereas mid-coast Maine is nine hours from Rochester. This is not intended to dismiss the ADK, or to imply that it’s less beautiful. At 6.1 million acres, it’s the largest park in the Lower 48. It includes more than 10,000 lakes and 30,000 miles of rivers and streams. One can spend a lifetime painting there.
The similarities between Maine and the ADK are legion. The Adirondack Preserve is roughly the same latitude as coastal Maine, with similar towering mixed forests, creatures and black flies. Neither is much given to large-scale farming; while there are cleared smallholdings, the forest predominates. There are ancient, worn rocks covered with lichens, and myriad lakes, babbling brooks and rivers tumbling over more rocks. Mornings are often cool and foggy and it never gets really hot. There are very few cows.
And, still, as I’ve lived here, I’ve noticed something different, something I couldn’t quite put my finger on until I looked at that painting yesterday. There is a stillness to the ADK that Maine doesn’t quite have. Its blue lakes shimmer immobile below a blue sky, separated in their individual vastnesses by mere strips of forest. Maine is equally beautiful, but it is never that glacially still.