The Artist's Garden: American
Impressionism and the Garden Movement, 1887-1920
June 3 - September 18, 2016
The Artist's Garden
An artist's interest in gardening is to produce pictures
without brushes," Anna Lea Merritt observed in her 1908 book An
Artist's Garden Tended, Painted, Described. A painter and avid gardener,
Merritt appreciated the creative potential of mixing art-making with horticulture.
Like Merritt, many American Impressionists combined their devotion to painting
flowers with the practice of planting and tending gardens -- a pursuit they
shared with fellow members of the nation's middle class. The "old-fashioned
garden" or "grandmother's garden" became a symbol of national
identity, evoking a humble but dignified past that appealed to Americans
anxious about the pace of modern society, industrialization, and urbanization.
For them, the garden signified a domestic enclave for the cultivation of
traditional social values and natural beauty.
Artists' gardens were personal laboratories for Impressionist
studies of light and color. They were outdoor classrooms where painters
could teach their students about form and composition. They were the sites
of art colonies, such as the one hosted by Florence Griswold in Old Lyme,
where artists came together to support and learn from each other in bucolic
settings removed from the stresses of the professional art world. These
works conjure up the artist's garden as a rejuvenating retreat and source
of artistic inspiration.
- 11. Daniel Garber (1880-1958)
- Sun in Summer, 1919
- Oil on canvas, 52 1/4 x 56 in.
- Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, Philadelphia,
Gift of the artist, 1945.14.2
- Daniel Garber is famed as the founder of the Pennsylvania
Impressionist school -- a group of artists who worked and taught in the
greater Philadelphia and Bucks County region. He received his plein-air
training from Hugh Henry Breckenridge and Thomas Anshutz at their summer
Darby School, where students were taught the importance of experimentation.
Garber developed a distinctive mosaic-like touch, favoring a palette of
blues, greens, and yellows. Garber's own depictions of his home and garden
along Cuttalossa Creek in Bucks County were perhaps the signature subjects
of his career. When he moved there in 1907, he transformed the converted
mill building into a residence surrounded by the lush gardens seen here.
- 12. Harry L. Hoffman (1871-1964)
- Childe Hassam's Studio, 1909
- Oil on canvas, 24 x 18 inches
- Florence Griswold Museum, Gift of the Artist
- Beginning in 1899, Florence Griswold welcomed artist
Henry Ward Ranger to her boardinghouse in Old Lyme and when he returned
the following year with friends, an art colony was born. The informal atmosphere
and New England village setting attracted painters, as did the beauty of
the gardens and grounds. To support the artists' work during trips to the
country to sketch en plein air, Florence allowed them to take over
various ramshackle buildings on her property, or to adapt spaces in the
barns for use as studios. Here, painter Harry Hoffman depicts the lean-to
near the banks of the Lieutenant River that was used by the Impressionist
Childe Hassam during his visits to Old Lyme. Hassam described the studio
as "just the place for high thinking and low living." Stepping
right outside the door, he could paint Florence's orchard of blossoming
fruit trees, one of which cascades over the studio in Hoffman's view.
- [photo of Hassam painting apple blossoms with studio
in background with caption: Childe Hassam painting near his studio in Florence
Griswold's orchard, ca. 1903. Lyme Historical Society Archives, Florence
- 13. Benedict Colewood
- Miss Florence's Vegetable Garden
- Oil on canvas
- Collection of Frank Jarrabeck
- Nothing is known about Benedict Colewood, who painted
this depiction of Florence Griswold's garden. He may have been one of the
many students who came to Old Lyme for summer art classes run by painters
who stayed at the Griswold boardinghouse. With its lawn, flower beds and
table garden, the Griswold property offered countless paintable subjects
to these students and their professional mentors. Here, Colewood focuses
on the more agricultural aspects of the gardens, rather than on ornamental
plantings as a backdrop for outdoor leisure. Although Lyme artists typically
favored unpopulated landscapes, Colewood features a woman -- likely Florence
Griswold -- at work.
- 14. Breta Longacre (1887-1923)
- Untitled [View of the Griswold House Barn], 1914
- Oil on wood, 10 x 12 inches
- Florence Griswold Museum, Gift in honor of Eleanor Revill,
daughter of Breta Longacre
- Breta Longacre was introduced to the Lyme Art Colony
by her older sister Lydia Longacre (1870-1951), a painter of miniature
portraits in watercolor on ivory. Breta painted on Florence Griswold's
property beginning in 1913, capturing views of the Lieutenant River and
one of the barns, seen here. Miss Florence adapted the outbuildings for
use by the artists, installing a dormer in the carriage barn to light the
studios inside. Working outdoors on a small wood panel, Longacre depicts
the barn as seen from the orchard, looking east toward Miss Florence's
boardinghouse and the distinctive yellow wellhouse.
- 15. Edmund Greacen (1876-1949)
- The Old Garden, ca. 1912
- Oil on canvas, 30 1/4 x 30 1/4 inches
- Florence Griswold Museum, Gift of Mrs. Edmund Greacen,
- Upon his return from the art colony in Giverny, Greacen
made his way to Florence Griswold's boardinghouse in Old Lyme in search
of both a community of artists and the sort of garden motifs he had favored
in France. He would paint the Griswold garden several times. Begun by Florence's
parents in the mid nineteenth century and maintained by the art colony's
matron with her hired helper, it embodies the aesthetic of the "old-fashioned"
or "grandmother's" garden; heirloom flowers and overgrown, unstructured
plantings create an environment seemingly insulated from the pressures
of contemporary life. Greacen's lush silvery greens and softly blended
brushwork reinforce the garden's dreamy mood.
- During your visit, be sure to take a walk through Miss
Florence's restored gardens. The Rafal Landscape Center just up the path
from this gallery contains an exhibition about her garden's history.
- 16. Willard Metcalf (1858-1925)
- Kalmia, 1905
- Oil on canvas, 34 x 34 inches
- Florence Griswold Museum, Museum Purchase through The
Nancy B. Krieble Acquisition Fund, with the support of Geddes and Kathy
Parsons; The Dorothy Clark Archibald Acquisition Fund; Helen E. Krieble;
V. J. Dowling; Max and Sally Belding; Richard and Barbara Booth; Mr. and
Mrs. David W. Dangremond; Charles and Irene Hamm; William E. Phillips and
Barbara Smith; Andy Baxter; Charles T. Clark; Jonathan L. Cohen; Jim and
Hedy Korst; Mr. and Mrs. S. Van Vliet Lyman; Clement C. and Elizabeth Moore;
Robert and Betsey Webster; Renée Wilson; Peter and Karen Cummins,
and a small group of members
- In the early years of the Lyme Art Colony, few subjects
generated more interest than mountain laurel (Kalmia latifolia).
This native species grew in abundance in southeastern Connecticut, an area
described as "one of the finest laurel gardens in the world"
in a 1914 newspaper. Enthusiasm for mountain laurel among Lyme artists
and the general public at the turn of the last century derived, in part,
from the perception of it as a resilient native plant whose beautiful flowers,
evergreen leaves, and durable wood embodied New England traits. During
the colonial revival of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries,
admirers praised mountain laurel in these patriotic terms: "Like liberty,
it is hardy and will persist in the most adverse conditions." Gardeners
were urged to plant kalmia to promote these values.
- Here, Metcalf focuses on laurel growing beside Old Lyme's
Lieutenant River, just upstream from Florence Griswold's house. Representing
the plant's short-lived flowering prompted him to experiment. The contrast
between the smoothly painted background and the energetic brushwork in
the laurel reveals Metcalf's transformation into a full-fledged Impressionist.
- 17. Matilda Browne (1869-1947)
- Clark Voorhees House
- Oil on panel, 11 3/4 x 15 7/8 inches
- Florence Griswold Museum
- Matilda Browne made a specialty of depicting the relationship
between old-fashioned houses and their gardens. Here, we see the porch
of Ker Guen, a Dutch colonial home on the banks of the Connecticut River
in Old Lyme bought and restored by Browne's fellow Lyme Art Colony painter
Clark Voorhees. The duck topiary by the porch adds a whimsical touch that
acknowledges Voorhees's love of hunting for waterfowl.
- Browne also painted a larger canvas depicting colorful
blossoms in Ker Guen's riverside garden, arranged by their artist owner
like pigments on a palette (see above). Voorhees' version of his garden
appears in a canvas by his own hand in the next gallery.
- [image here with caption: Matilda Browne, In Voorhees'
Garden, 1914. Oil on canvas. Florence Griswold Museum, Gift of The
Hartford Steam Boiler Inspection and Insurance Company, 2002.1.18. This
painting may be seen in the New York Botanical Garden's exhibition Impressionism:
American Gardens on Canvas, through September 11.]
- 18. Wilson Henry Irvine (1869-1936)
- Garden of Saints Rest, the William Owen Goodman House,
Westbrook, Connecticut, ca. 1925
- Oil on canvas, 25 x 30 inches
- Florence Griswold Museum, Gift of Ariane Dewey Dannasch
- Chicago lumber merchant William O. Goodman and his wife
Erna began summering at Quotonset Beach in Westbrook, Connecticut, before
the turn of the century. His home, Saints Rest, housed an extensive collection
of European and American pewter and other decorative arts. The couple's
artistic sensibilities extended outdoors, where they commissioned a garden
with Italianate touches.
- Like the Goodmans, artist Wilson Henry Irvine divided
his time between Chicago and Connecticut. With its riot of colorful plantings,
his patrons' garden provided an ideal subject for Irvine's experiments
with a prismatic technique, in which he broke light down into its constituent
colors, making them appear to vibrate on the canvas.
- 19. Theodore van Soelen (1890-1964)
- Summer Morning, ca. 1915
- Oil on canvas, 36 x 34 in.
- Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, Philadelphia,
John Lambert Fund, 1916.7
- Summer Morning pays homage
to Daniel Garber, Theodore van Soelen's teacher. Van Soelen includes the
artist and his wife in front of their home, Cuttalossa, which they named
after the creek adjacent to their property in Lumberville, Pennsylvania.
Working in lighter pigments against a darker ground, van Soelen flattens
the plantings, buildings, and trees into an overall pattern that mimics
the unmodulated effect of bright sunlight.
- 20. Anna Lea Merritt (1844-1930)
- Piping Shepherd, 1896
- Oil on wood, 26 1/8 x 21 5/8 in.
- Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, Henry D. Gilpin
- Philadelphia-born Anna Lea Merritt moved to London in
1870 and built a reputation as a painter and theorist of garden design.
With its nude shepherd boy playing the Pan flute (named after a Greek god
of nature), this picture presents an idyllic vision of the landscape as
a timeless space of beauty, music, and poetry. Such dreamy fantasies of
rustic gardens were popular in these decades, as were garden statues of
winged putti, dancing bacchantes, and other mythological figures that could
transform an ordinary backyard into a modern-day extension of ancient Greece
- 21. John LaFarge (1835-1910)
- Hollyhocks and Morning Glories,
- Opalescent stained glass, lead came, and wood sash, Framed:
45 x 31 1/4 x 7 in.
- Gift of Mr. and Mrs. Theodore T. Newbold in memory of
Louis I. Kahn, 1976.7.1
- John LaFarge embraced the principles of Impressionism
and found a way to express them in the medium of glass. In 1879 he developed
a new technique for making colorful, shimmering windows of opalescent glass.
This semi-opaque glass is composed of numerous suspended particles that
reflect and scatter light, creating a distinctive iridescent glow. By layering
and shaping glass of different colors and thicknesses, La Farge created
three-dimensional decorative effects, ideal for representing delicate forms
- 22. Anna Lea Merritt (1844-1930)
- An Artist's Garden, ca. 1908
- Oil on canvas, 30 1/2 x 24 inches, framed
- Private Collection
- Through her paintings and books, Anna Lea Merritt became
a recognized expert on artistic gardening in both the United States and
Great Britain. While she painted in a traditional realist style, her prose
relies on poetic, impressionistic language to describe the transitory beauty
of her garden throughout the seasons. According to Merritt, being a gardener
made one a better artist, and she called her garden a teacher and an outdoor
studio all in one. For her, Impressionism was more than an artistic technique,
it was also a stylistic approach to gardening. The title of this painting,
inscribed on its back, suggests that it may be a study for one of the lithographs
published as illustrations in Merritt's 1908 book An Artist's Garden,
- 23. Anna Lea Merritt (1844-1930). An Artist's Garden,
Tended, Painted, and Described, 2nd edition. London: George Allen &
Sons, 1910. Florence Griswold Museum
- 24. Bessie Potter Vonnoh (1872-1955)
- Water Lilies, modeled 1913
- Bronze, 29 1/4 h.
- Florence Griswold Museum, Gift of Mrs. Rhea Talley Stewart
- Water Lilies represented
a turning point in Vonnoh's career. Its popularity encouraged her to shift
her energies from small bronzes of mothers and children to larger outdoor
garden sculptures and fountains. Vonnoh recognized the needs and desires
of a new community of art consumers and gardeners who sought out nymph-like
figures such as Water Lilies. As Mary Fanton Roberts wrote in 1916,
"For every type and every size of garden, there are perfect little
figures of laughing children, of funny animals or lovely spirits to keep
us in remembrance of our own childhood days, those golden days when we
'almost ' saw fairies sleeping in flowers or riding upon butterflies."
The sculpture's modest size allowed its placement amid flowers to surprise
people encountering it in a garden.
- The artist modeled Water Lilies after the daughter
of painter Frank Vincent DuMond. Vonnoh, her husband Robert Vonnoh, and
the DuMond family were members of the Lyme Art Colony who also established
their own homes and gardens in Lyme.
- [photo with caption: Garden installation of Water
Lilies, in Mattie Edwards Hewitt, The Garden of Mrs. William Steele
Gray, Greenwich, Connecticut, ca. 1921. Garden Magazine 34 (January
- 25. Harriet Whitney Frishmuth (1880-1980)
- Joy of the Waters, 1920
- Bronze, 42 1/4 inches high
- Gift of The Hartford Steam Boiler Inspection and Insurance
- Piped for use as a fountain, Joy of the Waters
could have been installed indoors or outdoors, in keeping with the enthusiasm
for garden sculpture after about 1910. Just as Impressionist painters sought
to capture the spontaneity of nature in the garden, Frishmuth's leaping
figure acts out the exuberant movement of jetting water, icy to the touch.
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