The Artist's Garden: American
Impressionism and the Garden Movement, 1887-1920
June 3 - September 18, 2016
The Garden on Paper
American artists' fascination with horticulture spilled
over from the canvas into works on paper. In these media, more than anywhere
else, popular and artistic interests in garden subjects intersected. While
prints and drawings circulated in fine art settings, works on paper were
also disseminated through reproduction in mass circulation magazines and
gardening books. In these publications, artists were able to bridge the
divide between fine art and mass media, reaching broader audiences through
new reproductive technologies, such as modern chromolithography.
Significantly, America's burgeoning gardening craze was
primarily promoted by female cultural creators -- artists, writers, and
gardeners -- who found in it an opportunity to enter the public sphere as
professionals and advocates for a wide range of social issues. On and off
the page, the art of gardening gave many middle-class Americans both an
appreciation for natural beauty and an awareness of dynamic Progressive-Era
- 54. Fidelia Bridges (1835-1923)
- Wild Roses Among Rye, 1874
- Watercolor and gouache over pencil on heavy wove paper,
13 1/2 x 9 inches
- Florence Griswold Museum, Gift of The Hartford Steam
Boiler Inspection and Insurance Company
- Somewhat unusually for her time, Fidelia Bridges forged
a professional career as a painter in watercolor -- a medium traditionally
associated with amateurs or taught to women as a ladylike accomplishment.
Here, the elegant arc of rye against a minimal backdrop reflects Bridges'
meticulous attention to detail as well as her flair for compositions that
immerse the viewer in nature. Critics praised Bridges' work for bringing
truthfulness to garden subjects through the simplicity of her style and
for her identification of beauty in humble, often wild, plants?qualities
they felt were otherwise absent from depictions of nature in commercial
- Soon after completing Wild Roses Among Rye, Bridges
sold her first designs to the prominent lithography firm of Louis Prang.
The broad availability of her work in chromolithograph prints and calendars
beginning in the 1880s made it a crucial means of cultivating an appreciation
of nature and a desire for its preservation.
- 55. Lilian Westcott Hale (1880-1963)
- Black Eyed Susans, before
- Charcoal and colored pencil on paper, 28 3/4 x 31 inches
- Collection of Kenneth R. Woodcock
- Although this drawing depicts a young girl that the artist
likely knew, the title only describes the flowers she holds. Lilian Westcott
Hale plays off of the tendency during this era to equate floral beauty
with female beauty, much as her husband Philip Leslie Hale had in The
Crimson Rambler (hanging in the adjacent gallery). But the drooping
flowers and the girl's listless pose suggest that Lilian sought to disrupt
that time-honored association between women and flowers. With her impeccable
draughtsmanship, she instead composed a portrait of young woman in thought,
whose ideas bloom rather than her bouquet.
- 56. Mary Roberts Ebert (1873-1956)
- Flower Garden, 1921
- Watercolor on paper, 15 3/8 x 19 3/4 inches
- Florence Griswold Museum, Gift of Mr. and Mrs. Robert
- Mary Roberts studied alongside her future husband Charles
Ebert as pupils of John Henry Twachtman at the Art Students League's summer
school in Cos Cob, Connecticut. The couple lived there for many years before
moving in 1919 to Old Lyme, where they bought a house on the small town's
main street. The garden shown here may have belonged to one of their neighbors.
Ebert often made gardens and flowers the subject of her watercolors, which
she exhibited widely.
- The design of the plot seen here reflects the advice
of popular garden magazines. Garden and Home Builder Magazine commented
on the advantage of birdbaths in attracting birds to the garden. However,
they advised in a 1919 article that in a suburban setting, birdbaths should
be raised on pedestals like the one in Ebert's watercolor, to protect the
winged visitors from cats.
- 57. Mahonri Young (1877-1957)
- The George Burr House in Winter,
December 15, 1942
- Watercolor and pencil on paper, 8 3/4 x 9 3/8 inches
- Florence Griswold Museum, Gift of Daniel J. and Gertrude
- Many artists remained committed to painting gardens,
even in the winter. Here, we see the Old Lyme garden of artist George Burr,
which also appears in a portrait of his wife in the first gallery. Young
painted it from a porch across the street from Burr's house, Cricket Lawn,
which was built in 1844 after a design from Andrew Jackson Downing's book
Cottage Residences. Downing introduced to America new ideas about
the relationship between suburban or rural homes and the surrounding landscape,
laying important groundwork for the Garden Movement.
- 58. Photographs of the Ludington Gardens in Old Lyme.
Ludington Family Collection and Lyme Historical Society Archives, Florence
- Katharine Ludington inherited the family's home in Old
Lyme when her father Charles H. Ludington died in 1910. In her grandmother's
day, the property was more of a farm, which Charles transformed into a
"country place" with ornamental plantings as well as vegetable
gardens. Several of the photographs here show the garden as it appeared
during Charles's ownership, following his renovation of the family home
in the Colonial Revival style in 1893.
- As head of the Connecticut Women's Suffrage League, and
later national vice-president of the League of Women Voters, Katharine
traveled extensively. Always she returned gratefully to the beauty and
serenity of her Old Lyme home. In 1925, Katharine commissioned Edna Leighton
Tyler -- a professional photographer and fellow activist who established
the New London branch of the League of Women Voters -- to photograph her
house and gardens.
- 59. H.S. Adams, with photographs by Arthur G. Eldredge,
"Lyme -- A Country Life Community: The Rise of the Old Connecticut
Town from a Picturesque River Settlement to an Artists' Resort of National
Distinction," Country Life in America (April 1914).
- Magazines like Country Life in America were an
essential means of popularizing gardening among middle-class audiences.
Articles like the one about Old Lyme that appeared in April 1914 described
Florence Griswold's house and gardens as well as the homes and gardens
of artists who settled in town, identifying particular flowers for readers
who might want to impose the same effects in their backyards. While showcasing
each artist's creative approach, the author also celebrates the "old-fashioned"
architecture and plantings in keeping with Progressive-era concerns about
immigration and Americanization. Where new homes have been built by the
artists, he points out ways in which they have incorporated historic touches
that help them blend into and enhance the community around them?a process
that finds echoes in that era's discussions of methods for assimilating
large waves of immigrants.
- 60. The Garden of a Commuter's Wife. New York:
The Macmillan Company, 1901 (reprinted 1902). Florence Griswold Museum
- Through the values of the Progressive Era, including
the rise of a strong middle class and the definition of an American national
identity, a middle-class gardening community emerged. Estate gardens pruned
by hired hands were rejected in favor of "the commuter's garden"?personal
plots of amateur gardeners filled with native plants and wildflowers.
- In the popular 1901 book The Garden of a Commuter's
Wife, the author, who lived in Fairfield, Connecticut, critiques her
neighbor's showy "Italian garden" and describes her own as "a
purely American garden." The lament of the Commuter's Wife
has both race and class components, as the so-called Italian or French
garden of the time was associated with the estates of Gilded-Age elites,
or perhaps with recent Italian immigrants, whereas the American, colonial,
or wild garden was deemed both patriotic and appropriate for a new class
of suburban commuters.
- 61. Postcards to Florence Griswold from Henry A. Dreer's
Seeds, W. Atlee Burpee & Company, and Glen Brothers' Glenwood Nursery,
1909-1921. Lyme Historical Society Archives, Florence Griswold Museum
- Florence Griswold played an active role in the cultivation
of her garden, which included both vegetables and fruit trees as well as
flowers. Paintings depicting the landscape she created hang in the first
gallery, and reflect her garden's reputation for the dense, luxuriant plantings
that The Day of New London described on July 1, 1915, as a mass
of "lilac, lima beans, lilies, rhubarb, and other exotic plants."
These postcards from plant nurseries and seed companies reflect her order
of supply catalogues for planning purposes, as well as seeds and potato
plants for produce to serve her boarders. In addition to these purchases,
letters to Florence from the artists she hosted are full of references
to flowers they knew she would appreciate, and painter Lewis Cohen even
sent her gladiolus bulbs.
- Florence's love and knowledge of gardens was informed
by her mother Helen, who cultivated flowers, fruit trees, and vegetables,
some from roots her husband Captain Robert Griswold brought from abroad
or from New York City through his work as a packet ship captain. Florence
increased her knowledge of gardens by attending lectures in Old Lyme such
as one in 1913 about famous European gardens by a Miss Zimmerman. She also
played host in 1915 and 1916 to Professor Frank A. Waugh of the University
of Massachusetts at Amherst, a well-known advocate for an ecologically-based
natural style of landscape gardening that used native plants.
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