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Themes and Stories on the Florence Griswold House

With the new presentation in the Florence Griswold House, visitors will experience the most compelling and animated interpretation of early 20th century American art colony life found anywhere. The stories of Miss Florence and her boisterous artists are recalled with original artifacts, paintings, furnishings, and exhibitry that creatively weave together the following five themes and stories that are central to the narrative.


(above: William Chadwick, On the Porch, c. 1908, Florence Griswold Museum. Chadwick, Porch: The side porch of the Griswold House became an extension of the interior space, and served as an open-air dining room. Meals were taken here in warm weather, with views of the gardens and barns beyond)




The Lyme Art Colony and Artist Colonies in America

This theme explores the history of the Griswold House as the center of the Lyme Art Colony and places it into the broader context of American history, specifically the development of artist colonies at the turn of the last century.


Daily Life in a Boarding House, c. 1910

Unlike the large company-run boarding houses built in the mill and factory towns of New England, rural boarding houses were opened in family homes, often affording inexpensive lodging to the middle class. The transformation of the Griswold family's home into a boardinghouse is a common story with an extraordinary ending. The history of this boarding house includes the distinctive personalities of Miss Florence, her domestic staff, non-boarding visitors and tourists, and the artists themselves.


Florence Griswold and the Role of Women in American Life

Through the biography of the central protagonist, Florence Griswold, the Museum investigates the changing role of women during the late 19th and early 20th centuries in America. Her life also presents an interesting case study of a well-educated, unmarried woman's economic choices at the end of the 19th century. Other women featured in the Museum's core story include the largely Irish-American domestic staff, the wives of the painters, and in several instances, the female artists themselves.


A Sense of Place: The Artistic Rediscovery of New England

The paintings created in Old Lyme capture a sense of place distinct to the region and to southern New England. Collectively, these artists offered a pastoral vision of life and nature in keeping with how many imagined and experienced the New England landscape. The art, literature and history of New England during the late nineteenth and early twentieth century was central to defining an American identity during this period. The Museum explains the role that the art colony played in contributing to this broader national identity in ways that allow the visitor to see how identities are constructed and shaped.


Connecticut and American Impressionism

Informed and inspired by French Impressionists such as Claude Monet and Auguste Renoir, American artists imported the characteristics of the radical style while making it their own as they adapted it to American subjects. Although artists who painted in a style known as Tonalism initially founded the colony at Old Lyme, they were supplanted by a prominent group of American Impressionists whose work became the signature style of the Lyme Art Colony.


The Connecticut Humanities Council has generously supported the development and implementation of the Griswold House themes.


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