Editor's note: The Florence Griswold Museum provided source material to Resource Library Magazine for the following article or essay. If you have questions or comments regarding the source material, please contact the Florence Griswold Museum directly through either this phone number or web address:


The American Art Colony at Lyme


During the first quarter of the twentieth century, Old Lyme, Connecticut was the center of the Lyme Art Colony, one of most influential colonies in the history of American Art. Artists from across the country flocked to the area to paint the region's abundant subject matter. They also enjoyed the camaraderie of other artists and the gracious hospitality of Miss Florence Griswold, whose boarding house became the center of colony life. Using paintings, photographs, film, and audio, The American Art Colony at Lyme explores the legacy of these artists. The exhibition, which opens February 9, 2002, will be a continuing exhibition in the Griswold House through 2002. (left: George Burr, Old Lyme Garden, Collection of Florence Griswold Museum, Old Lyme, CT)

With a multi-layered interpretive approach, the exhibition introduces the story of the Lyme Art Colony to first-time visitors while providing opportunities for in-depth study for seasoned viewers. The exhibition features some of America's best-known Impressionists such as Childe Hassam and Willard Metcalf.

The heart of the Colony was the home of Florence Griswold who, for financial reasons, had turned her family estate into a boarding house. Seemingly overnight, barns and outbuildings were transformed into makeshift studios. Artists set up portable easels to paint en plein air (in the open air) in the gardens or along the tidal river that bordered the property. For the artists, Lyme was an American version of the art colonies they had experienced abroad. Working largely within the stylistic traditions of Tonalism and Impressionism, these artists created paintings that celebrated Lyme's distinctive sense of place.

Southeastern Connecticut offered the artists a wealth of subject matter. From lush gardens and gentle shorelines to Colonial and Federal houses, the artists were never at a loss for themes. Each favored subject is represented in the exhibition. Lieutenant River by Everett Warner is a new acquisition that reflects the painter's love of the natural landscape. (left: Charles Ebert, Monhegan Headlands, Collection of Florence Griswold Museum, Old Lyme, CT)

Two other recent additions to the collection include a Harry Hoffman painting of the Griswold House and a garden statue by Bessie Potter Vonnoh, known for her sculptures in New York's public parks. These works capture the beauty the American Impressionists saw in homes and gardens. The charming depiction of a village in Wilson Henry Irvine's Meeting House Hill and Edward Volkert's two farm scenes (both new to the collection) represent icons of early New England character.

Members of the Lyme Art Colony did not limit their careers to Lyme. The American Art Colony at Lyme devotes a gallery to scenes from their artistic travels. From Edmund Greacen's The Seine at Vernon to Daniel Putnam Brinley's Daisy Field (Silvermine), visitors will note how the artists' bright paint and lively brushwork captured color and light all over the world.

The social aspect of the Lyme Art Colony is not overlooked in this exhibition. One gallery is devoted to the bohemian spirit that surrounded the community. During its heyday from 1900 to 1915, the house came alive with the vibrant personalities of the artists, Florence Griswold, her domestic staff, and the many dogs and cats that had free run. For the artists, days revolved around painting, interspersed with the occasional trip to the beach, outdoor picnic, or a game of horseshoes. Evenings were apt to be occupied with lengthy dinner discussions and impromptu musicales. Examples of their parlor amusement, a drawing challenge called "the Wiggle Game," are on display as well as Harry Hoffman's The Harvest Moon Walk, a depiction of another pastime, a lantern-lit walk to the Lieutenant River. (Left: Wilson Henry Irvine, Meeting House Hill, Collection of Florence Griswold Museum, Old Lyme, CT)

The exhibition offers a closer look at the techniques and characteristics of Tonalism and Impressionism, the two artistic styles associated with the Lyme Art Colony. Using paintings from the recently acquired Hartford Steam Boiler Collection -- Mason's Island by Henry Ward Ranger and Ten Pound Island by Childe Hassam -- exhibition viewers will be able to study firsthand the similarities and differences between these styles.

Read more articles and essays concerning this institutional source by visiting the sub-index page for the Florence Griswold Museum.in Resource Library Magazine.

Search for more articles and essays on American art in Resource Library. See America's Distinguished Artists for biographical information on historic artists.

This page was originally published in 2002 in Resource Library Magazine. Please see Resource Library's Overview section for more information.

Copyright 2011 Traditional Fine Arts Organization, Inc., an Arizona nonprofit corporation. All rights reserved.

Links to sources of information outside of our web site are provided only as referrals for your further consideration. Please use due diligence in judging the quality of information contained in these and all other web sites. Information from linked sources may be inaccurate or out of date. TFAO neither recommends or endorses these referenced organizations. Although TFAO includes links to other web sites, it takes no responsibility for the content or information contained on those other sites, nor exerts any editorial or other control over them. For more information on evaluating web pages see TFAO's General Resources section in Online Resources for Collectors and Students of Art History.