Florence Griswold Museum

Old Lyme, Connecticut

(860) 434-5542



American Naive Paintings from the National Gallery of Art


Thirty-five important American folk paintings from the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C. will be on view at the Florence Griswold Museum from January 17 through May 31, 1998. These lively and engaging paintings from the late eighteenth through the nineteenth centuries include portraits, landscapes, history paintings, and scenes of daily life. Such well-known artists as Edward Hicks and Erastus Salisbury Field are represented as well as many painters whose names are not known. These works by largely self-taught artists demonstrate strong design in pleasing colors with a sense of vitality that is just as appealing today as when the works were created.


Farmhouse in MahantangoValley, American 19th century


While their style has also been called "folk" or "primitive," these artists came from diverse backgrounds and demonstrated varying degrees of sophistication in their art. There were those who had some experience studying with academic painters or working with established studios such as Currier & Ives. Many were amateurs, drawing inspiration from instruction manuals or prints of the day. Several worked simultaneously as artisans in other fields. Others were successful itinerants, traveling through the rapidly growing towns, and countryside working predominantly in established population centers of the northeast.


Boy with Toy Horse and Wagon, William Matthew Prior

During the nineteenth century, the growing wealth and comfort of the American middle class created an expanding market of patrons interested in documenting their images for posterity. Before the spread of photography, they turned to such successful portrait painters as Joshua Johnson, Ammi Phillips, and William Matthew Prior. Many anonymous artists also produced records of family members, and a number of pictures in the exhibition relate to the history of Connecticut including a portrait of an early Stonington family by Denison Limner.


Elizabeth Denison, Denison Limner


While portraits represent the most popular and important segment of naive art, a variety of other themes are displayed in this exhibition including marine, still life, and genre paintings. In the aftermath of the Civil War, artists outside the academic tradition also interpreted historical and biblical events with fresh, expressive visions. Among those presented in the show are Edward Hick's idyllic Penn's Treaty with the Indians (c. 1840-44).

Paintings in the exhibition were drawn from the generous gift to the National Gallery of Art from Edgar William and Bernice Chrysler Garbisch. Starting their collection in 1944 when interest in folk art was relatively new, Colonel and Mrs. Garbisch were able to obtain extraordinary works. To share their enthusiasm with the public and to stimulate interest in American Folk Art, they donated and bequeathed their entire collection to museums throughout the country. The National Gallery of Art received the largest and finest selection - more than 300 paintings and 100 drawings, watercolors, and pastels - making The National Gallery one of the most important repositories of American Folk painting in the world.

The presentation of American Naive Paintings from the National Gallery of Art is made possible by a grant from Fleet Bank. Additional funding is provided by the Connecticut Commission on the Arts. The exhibition is organized by the National Lending Service of the National Gallery of Art, Washington and will be on view at the Florence Griswold Museum from January 17 through May 31, 1998. Museum hours are Wednesday through Sunday, 1:00 to 5:00. The Florence Griswold Museum is a National Historic Landmark located in the heart of the historic district in Old Lyme, Connecticut. For information, call the Museum at 860/434-5542 or e-mail at lyme.historical.scty@snet.net.

rev. 6/30/10

For biographical information on artists referenced above please see America's Distinguished Artists, a national registry of historic artists.

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