The Portland Museum of Art is an art museum in Portland, Maine. Founded as the Portland Society of Art in 1882, it is located in the downtown area known as The Arts District, and is the largest and oldest public art institution in the U.S. state of Maine.
Over the next 65 years, as the size and scope of the exhibitions expanded, the limitations of the Museum's galleries, storage, and support areas became apparent. In 1976, Maine native Charles Shipman Payson promised the Museum his collection of 17 paintings by Winslow Homer. Recognizing the Museum's physical limitations, he also gave $8 million toward the building of an addition to be designed by Henry Nichols Cobb of I. M. Pei & Partners. Construction began on the Charles Shipman Payson Building in 1981, and within two years the $8.2 million facility was opened to the public.
Payson's gift of the Homer paintings served as a catalyst for the Museum's expansion as well as for significant long-term loans and outright gifts to the Museum. In direct response to the Payson gift, the 1979 gift of the Hamilton Easter Field Art Foundation Collection added more than 50 paintings, sculptures, and works on paper by American modernists to the collection. In 1991, the Joan Whitney Payson Collection (owned by Charles Payson's wife Joan Whitney, a Whitney family heiress and New York City socialite) of 20 impressionist and post-impressionist works of art was given to the Museum on permanent loan. In 1996, Elizabeth B. Noyce, art collector and Maine philanthropist, bequeathed 66 works of American art, which is the most extensive and diverse gift of American art ever presented to the Museum.