The Portland Museum of Art opened in 1983. It replaced the Libby Building, a location favored by women music teachers for their studios. The Museum's major collections include the Joan Whitney Payson collection of nineteenth- and twentieth-century European and American paintings installed here in 1991. The museum frequently offers a series of women's films, videos, and exhibits during Women's History Month (March).
Susanna Paine (1792-1862) is among the Maine women artists represented in the Museum's collection from the nineteenth century. Before the advent of photography, people wishing to preserve the likenesses of family members often hired traveling portrait painters. Paine was one of them, supporting herself in Portland for a decade after 1826 by painting miniatures and portraits, sometimes in return for room and board.
Marguerite Thompson Zorach (1887-1968) and Mildred Giddings Burrage (1890-1983) represent Maine women artists in the Museum's collection from the twentieth century. Zorach first joined the Maine art scene in Stonington in 1919 where she painted in the Cubist mode. She moved to Georgetown permanently in 1923 and expanded into watercolors and embroidery. Burrage was an artist as well as a historic preservationist. Although her early paintings were influenced by her studies of Impressionism in France, the influence of the times and her work as a counselor in the South Portland shipyards during World War II led her to paint realistic scenes of contemporary activities. Her successes in historic preservation include the restoration of the Tate House in Stroudwater, the Pownalborough Court House in Dresden, and the Lincoln County Museum and Jail in Wiscasset.
The Museum includes work by noted sculptor Louise Nevelson (1899-1988). Born in Kiev, Ukraine, she migrated with her family to the United States in 1905. She grew up and went to school in Rockland before moving to New York City. Nevelson's interest in sculpture was partly inspired by a statue of Joan of Arc in the Rockland Public Library.
The Portland Museum of Art is also on the Congress Street Trail as site C23.