July 25, 2021

Painting purchase for state museum angers Maine senator

AUGUSTA — The Maine State Museum and the Maine Historical Society have gotten together to pay $74,500 for two historically important paintings at an auction.

Recently, the Legislature gave the state museum $162,000 to buy items at the auction in Gray where the paintings were purchased, provoking the outrage of one state senator.

“So much for tax relief,” said Republican Stephen Hall of Guilford.

Hall said lawmakers for months have been promising to give surplus state funds back to taxpayers. He also said the public did not get a chance to voice its opinion on the appropriation.

But David Bragdon, special assistant to House Speaker Elizabeth Mitchell, D-Vassalboro, said today there was more than enough money for both the paintings and tax relief. He said the purchase would give Maine schoolchildren a chance to see a valuable part of their state history.

“It’s a wonderful opportunity to save a piece of cultural heritage,” Bragdon said.

The state museum and the historical society Wednesday bought a small watercolor of the State House that stood in Portland from 1820 to 1832. They also bought a mid-18th-century oil painting of the Portland Light Infantry encampment in Portland.

Bragdon said a public hearing was not held on the appropriation because legislators found out about the auction too late to schedule one. He said the president of the state museum made a personal appeal to the House for the money.

The Legislative Council, consisting of leaders of both parties, voted unanimously to let the request for the money go the full Legislature, Bragdon said.

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