Old Lyme, CT.- From July 1 through September 18, the Florence Griswold Museum in Old Lyme hosts an exhibition of over 40 American landscape paintings from the Parrish Art Museum in Southampton, New York. “American Landscapes: Treasures from the Parrish Art Museum” traces the evolution of American art from its roots in an emerging national landscape tradition to the liberating influences of European modernism. Some of the artists represented include William Merritt Chase, William Stanley Haseltine, Theodore Robinson, John Henry Twachtman, John Marin, John Sloan, Ernest Lawson, Fairfield Porter, and Alex Katz. Of special interest is Lyme Art Colony painter Childe Hassam, whose view of the Church at Old Lyme (1906) will be featured.
“We are delighted at the opportunity to present one of Hassam’s legendary paintings of the Congregational church, which put Old Lyme on the map artistically when he exhibited them here and in New York during the early years of the colony,” said Curator Amy Kurtz Lansing. “Partnering with the Parrish has allowed us to exhibit one of the treasures of American Impressionism.”
At the beginning of the nineteenth-century, artists of the Hudson River School were among the first to record the “New Eden” that was the North American continent. Their framing of the view into the distance, often with a solitary figure in the foreground, literally invented a new way of seeing. By the middle of the century, the border of the wilderness had been pushed farther west and industrialization had begun to transform the topography of the eastern United States. A painting like Samuel Colman’s Farmyard, East Hampton (ca. 1880) evokes a nostalgia for the vanishing rural scene. Artists of the post-Civil War period frequently traveled to Europe to study. The exhibition includes work by American artists who spent extended periods abroad in the 1880s and 1890s, William Stanley Haseltine, William Lamb Picknell, and Theodore Robinson among them. Lessons learned abroad were brought home by such artists as William Merritt Chase, John Henry Twachtman, and Childe Hassam. Their work will be compared and contrasted with that of their colleagues who remained overseas. After their stays abroad, many artists returned to the United States with much enthusiasm and a new mode of expression.
The brighter palettes, more vibrant brushwork and intimate themes of Impressionism began to appear. Both Hassam and Twachtman translated Impressionism to an American context, placing a greater emphasis on personal responses to nature than their French colleagues. Twachtman’s nearly abstract rendering of Horseshoe Falls, Niagara presents it as a natural phenomenon rather than a national icon and Hassam’s selection of subjects such as Old Lyme’s Congregational church reflect his deep affection for New England architecture. Artists also continued their experience in the European artist communities by establishing their own art colonies outside metropolitan areas like New York and Boston. To Hassam, Old Lyme was emblematic of America’s rich heritage. He arrived there in 1903 to stay in the boardinghouse of Florence Griswold (now the Florence Griswold Museum). Hassam depicted Old Lyme’s most famous edifice, the First Congregational Church seven times.
Modernist painters in the earlier decades of the twentieth century, such as John Marin, John Sloan, and Ernest Lawson, continued a landscape tradition that expanded to include urban settings. American Landscapes concludes with a particularly strong representation of artists of the second half of the century, such as Fairfield Porter, Jane Wilson, Jane Freilicher, and Sheridan Lord, who were drawn to the beauty of Long Island’s East End.
Located on an 11-acre site in the historic village of Old Lyme, the Florence Griswold Museum is known as the Home of American Impressionism. In addition to the restored Florence Griswold House, where the artists of the Lyme Art Colony lived, the Museum features a gallery of changing art exhibitions, education and landscape centers, extensive gardens, and a restored artist’s studio. The Museum is located at 96 Lyme Street, Old Lyme, CT. Thanks in large measure to “Miss Florence” Griswold, what is known today as the Florence Griswold Museum has, for more than a century, been the home of the Lyme Art Colony, America’s center of Impressionism. One of four children of a ship captain, Miss Florence was born on Christmas Day, 1850 and raised in the finest house on the main street of a thriving Connecticut town. Old Lyme, a center of shipbuilding and commerce, was established in the early 1600s and counted the Griswolds among the town’s oldest families. Their Late Georgian-style mansion, built in 1817 on a twelve-acre estate, was purchased by Captain Robert Griswold for his bride Helen Powers in 1841. The family’s and the town’s fortunes reversed, however, as a result of the Civil War and the invention of steam-powered vessels. To survive financially the Griswolds turned their home into a school and eventually a boarding house. By the late 1890s only Miss Florence was left to maintain the family homestead. In 1899, an artist came calling. Henry Ward Ranger, having recently returned from Europe, saw in Old Lyme an ideal setting for establishing a new American school of landscape painting. He found in Miss Florence’s home and hospitality the perfect place to settle. Other artists followed suit and the Lyme Art Colony was born. With the arrival of Childe Hassam in 1903, some of the country’s most accomplished artists gathered in her home. Florence Griswold was the very soul of the Colony. She retrieved lost brushes, praised good work and lent respectability to this bohemian group of painters’ good—natured high jinks. Over the next decade, the House became the center of America’s best-known Impressionist art colony. For her part in helping write a vital chapter in the history of American art, Florence Griswold was inducted into the Connecticut Women’s Hall of Fame in 2002. She joins nearly 100 Connecticut women who have broken new ground or emerged as leaders in their fields. Visit the museum’s website at … http://www.flogris.org
Source: press release (to the editor) from the museum (reply to Tammi Flynn Florence Griswold Museum <[email protected]>), museum website and google image search (we have featured this travelling exhibition before – 6 months ago, when it started at the Parrish, but all the images offered this time around are new).