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Faces and Figures: Portraits from the Florence Griswold Museum

October 20, 2007 - January 27, 2008


The Florence Griswold Museum in Old Lyme, Connecticut, presents a new exhibition entitled Faces and Figures: Portraits from the Florence Griswold Museum, on view October 20, 2007 through January 27, 2008. The exhibition marks the first portrait show ever organized by the Museum and celebrates the recent acquisition of Cecilia Beaux's magnificent portrait of Ethel Saltus Ludington, a prominent summer resident of Old Lyme in the early 20th century. The painting joins a distinguished group of portraits at the Museum, hidden gems in a collection best known for its masterpieces of American landscape painting. .

The nineteenth and twentieth-century paintings selected from the Museum's collection provide a context for understanding the function of portraiture during an era otherwise defined by the Impressionist interest in landscape. Artists such as Cecilia Beaux, Robert Vonnoh, and Lilian Westcott Hale took portraiture in novel directions, combining a mastery of the figure achieved through study at schools like the Académie Julian, with an Impressionist interest in spontaneity, observation, and an attention to mood. The centerpiece of the exhibition, the portrait of Ethel Saltus Ludington by Beaux, was a recent gift to the Museum by the Ludington Family. In her lifetime Beaux was considered by many to be the artistic equal of John Singer Sargent. She specialized in portraits of the cultural and economic elite of New York and her native Philadelphia. In the Ludington portrait, Beaux evokes the casual elegance of a woman of Mrs. Ludington's class; she wears an uncorseted tea gown, the proper attire for entertaining at home, and large emerald pendant. The painting conveys a sense of informality, testifying not only to Mrs. Ludington's amiable personality, but also to the relationship Beaux established with her as a woman artist who operated in the same social circles.

Other paintings, such as George Brainerd Burr's, President Wilson's Daughters, ca. 1910, are intimate likenesses of close friends and family that provide a glimpse into the artists' private lives. The painting depicts the three girls, who spent several summers in Old Lyme while their mother studied landscape painting, at a bonfire with the local artists. Burr worked quickly and with loose brushwork at the site to capture the girls' youthful exuberance and the spirit of the bohemian lifestyle enjoyed by those who visited the Lyme Art Colony.

While many of the artists represented in this exhibition, including Will Howe Foote, George Bruestle, Frank Vincent DuMond, Clark Voorhees, and Louis Paul Dessar, later turned to landscape painting, others such as Ivan Olinsky, Oscar Fehrer, and Abram Poole pursued the genre fully, becoming some of the premier American portraitists of the twentieth century.



Related Programming

2007 Samuel Thorne Memorial Lecture - Cecilia Beaux, Mary Cassatt, and Thomas Eakins: The Politics of Portraiture
Saturday, November 10, 5pm
Admission is free, but reservations are required, (860) 434-5542, ext. 111
The Museum welcomes art historian Sylvia Yount, Ph.D., organizing curator of Cecilia Beaux, American Figure Painter, a traveling exhibition that debuted at the High Museum in Atlanta.  
Dr. Yount's lecture, Cecilia Beaux, Mary Cassatt, and Thomas Eakins: The Politics of Portraiture situates the work of the lesser known Beaux -- whose popular and critical reputation at the turn of the twentieth century exceeded that of her now acclaimed fellow Philadelphians Thomas Eakins and Mary Cassatt -- in the broader context of American portrait painting. Yount traces Beaux's rise and fall in American art history in terms of issues of gender, class, and the importance of place.
The lecture will be held in the Fellowship Hall of the First Congregational Church of Old Lyme at 2 Ferry Road in Old Lyme. A light reception and book signing of the exhibition catalogue Cecilia Beaux, American Figure Painter follows the lecture.
The Samuel Thorne Memorial Lecture is an annual series endowed by the late Mrs. Samuel Thorne and Samuel Thorne, Jr., in honor of their husband and father, Samuel Thorne, a former Museum president.
Gallery Program - Figuring Out Faces and Figures
Sunday, November 18, 2pm
FREE with Museum Admission
Join curator Amy Kurtz Lansing to meet some fresh faces from the Museum's extraordinary collection of American portraits. Use your powers of observation to discover what these likenesses have to say about the people they depict. Search for clues by exploring new acquisitions, such as Cecilia Beaux's magnificent portrait of Old Lyme resident Ethel Saltus Ludington, as well as several old favorites.
Music in the Galleries - Have Violin Will Travel: A Musical Tour in the Galleries
Sunday, January 27, 2pm
FREE with Museum Admission
Wander the world in this musical travelogue with violinist Gabriel Kastelle as he strolls the galleries offering musical interpretations of the sitters, their settings, and painted style.

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