Call of the Coast: Art Colonies of New England at the Portland Museum of Art

June 24 - October 12, 2009



Gallery object labels for the exhibition

Blue Walls Section 1

Ernest Albert
United States, 1857-1946
oil on canvas
Florence Griswold Museum. Gift of The Hartford Steam Boiler Insurance and Inspection Company, 2002.1.1
After establishing his career as a scene designer in the theaters of several major American cities, Ernest Albert decided to devote his efforts to easel painting. In 1908 he and his artist son E. Maxwell Albert visited Old Lyme as boarders at Florence Griswold's house. In contrast to the great variety of sets and scenes required in his theatrical work -- from Shakespeare to the Ziegfeld Follies-Albert's landscape painting demonstrated a consistency of vision. Albert's visits to Old Lyme and farther afield to Monhegan became a regular part of his summers in the last half of his life.
Matilda Browne
United States, 1869-1947
oil on canvas
Florence Griswold Museum. Gift of The Hartford Steam Boiler Inspection and Insurance Company, 2002.1.16
Matilda Browne found her way to Old Lyme in 1905, having already earned an enviable artistic reputation. Unlike other women artists who visited Old Lyme during the summer months, Browne was never considered an amateur. Her credentials equaled the accomplishments of her male counterparts, including childhood study with Thomas Moran, time at the Académie Julian in Paris, exhibition at the Art Institute of Chicago, as well as prizes from the National Academy of Design and the Chicago World's Fair. Her fellow art colonists bestowed a local honor upon her when she was asked to paint a door panel at the Griswold House, headquarters to the Old Lyme painters. Browne's acceptance by these male artists may also owe something to the fact that she knew many of them from Cos Cob and Greenwich, where she lived year-round beginning in the mid-1890s.
Emil Carlsen
United States, born Denmark, 1853-1932
oil on canvas
Florence Griswold Museum. Gift of The Hartford Steam Boiler Inspection and Insurance Company, 2002.1.24
Danish-born Emil Carlsen trained as an architect before emigrating to the United States in 1872. Over the next two decades, he studied and taught art in Chicago, Paris, San Francisco, and New York and built a reputation as a still-life painter. In 1896 Carlsen began summering in Connecticut, where he took up the subject of landscape. At first he stayed at the home of artist J. Alden Weir in Windham, residing with his family in a cottage on Weir's property. In 1905 Carlsen bought a place of his own in Falls Village, in the northwest corner of the state. According to his son, the artist found Falls Village by mistake. He set out to visit Old Lyme, but through a misunderstanding with the ticket agent, he instead purchased a ticket to Lime Rock. In exploring the area, he came upon Falls Village, where he would summer for decades to follow.
William Chadwick
United States, born England, 1879-1962
LAUREL, undated
oil on canvas
Florence Griswold Museum. Gift of Elizabeth Chadwick O'Connell, 1975.7.4
Mountain laurel, designated as the state flower of Connecticut in 1907, blooms in June along the Lieutenant River in Old Lyme. Chadwick's view of the distinctive blossom is a quintessential vision of the culture of summer that drew painters to the historic town on Long Island Sound. Painted in the bright palette favored by the circle of Childe Hassam, Chadwick's work illustrates the curious tendency of Old Lyme painters to place the coast in the distance or turn their back on it altogether and focus on the architecture of the town and the distinctive rock ledges.
Charles Ebert
United States, 1873-1959
WATER'S EDGE, undated
oil on canvas
Florence Griswold Museum. Gift of Miss Elisabeth Ebert, 1977.18.13
A spirit of creative experimentation infused artistic circles at Cos Cob. In Water's Edge, Ebert adopted the bright colors of the Fauves -- a group of artist's known as "wild beasts" in France-to depict the bright red sheds of the Palmer & Duff boat yard. A venerable firm, Palmer & Duff made their business building and refitting sailing vessels, an industry that would soon shift from servicing working boats to pleasure craft on Long Island Sound.
Charles Harold Davis
United States, 1856-1933
oil on canvas
Florence Griswold Museum. Gift of The Hartford Steam Boiler and Inspection Company, 2002.1.42
In the 1880s Charles Harold Davis was an American well established in the French art world, studying at the Académie Julian, exhibiting at the Paris Salon, and making frequent trips to paint at the art colonies of Barbizon and Fleury. In 1890 Davis moved his French wife and family back to the United States after a decade abroad. In searching out just the right location to continue his landscape career, Davis considered the geography, topography, and climate of the New England region, finally settling on Mystic, Connecticut. He spent the remaining forty years of his life at the nexus of the Mystic River and Long Island Sound, painting more than nine hundred views of coast, uplands, and most of all, atmospheric effects.
Frank Vincent DuMond
United States, 1865-1951
oil on canvas
Florence Griswold Museum. Gift of Elisabeth DuMond Perry, 1974.9
DuMond taught at the Art Students League in New York City for over fifty years. A list of his pupils reads like a who's who of American art and includes such disparate painters as Georgia O'Keeffe and Norman Rockwell. Despite these metropolitan credentials, DuMond preferred life in the country. He came to Old Lyme in search of the rustic and purchased an old farmhouse on Grassy Hill Road. DuMond directed the Lyme Summer School of Art in 1902 and remained an active member of the local artistic community until the beginning of World War II. So fond of Grassy Hill was DuMond that he frequently took an overnight boat from New London back to New York City to teach simply to preserve his daylight hours in Connecticut.
Charles Ebert
United States, 1873-1959
oil on canvas
Florence Griswold Museum. Gift of Miss Elisabeth Ebert, 1977.18.10
In 1919 Charles Ebert and his wife, the artist Mary Roberts Ebert, moved from Greenwich to Old Lyme, where they bought a large house on the main street of the village. Although the subject of this painting, the Deming-Avery House, was located next door, the choice to portray this house was more than mere convenience. It was one of the earliest homes in town, having been built in 1726. An appreciation for the town's early architecture and history was part of the colony's stock-in-trade. Fellow colonist Frank Vincent DuMond acknowledged how "the village is one of the oldest in New England, and is one of the few remaining places which still possesses the characteristics expressive of the quiet dignity of other days." While the subject may be a bit old fashioned, Ebert's palette -- a bold impressionist mix of cool violets and goldenrod yellows -- is decidedly modern.
Charles Ebert
United States, 1873-1959
oil on canvas
Florence Griswold Museum. Gift of The Hartford Steam Boiler Inspection and Insurance Company, 2002.1.53
Reflections, Old Lyme is a classic image of the Connecticut art colony. Thinly painted, suggesting quick work and direct observation, Reflections captures the autumnal colors and still waters of the Lieutenant River as it meanders into Long Island Sound. The whitewashed old house denotes longevity of habitation in the colonial town lending a sense of place and permanence to viewers who have just experienced the trauma of World War I. Typical too, is the painting's quiescence. Old Lyme artists frequently turned their back on the coast itself to create such soothing visions of the New England landscape.
Frederick Childe Hassam
United States, 1859-1935
oil on canvas
Florence Griswold Museum. Gift of The Hartford Steam Boiler Inspection and Insurance Company, 2002.1.66
Although affiliated with a number of New England art colonies, Childe Hassam had his greatest impact on Old Lyme. Beginning in 1903, he regularly visited Florence Griswold's boardinghouse and turned many of the artists in residence there from tonalism to impressionism. An established painter, Hassam had already helped to found the group known as "The Ten", along with John H. Twachtman and J. Alden Weir. He called Old Lyme "just the place for high thinking and low living" and took pleasure in shaking up the townsfolk with his eccentric behavior.
Harry Leslie Hoffman
United States, 1871-1964
oil on pressed board
Florence Griswold Museum. Gift of the family of Mrs. Nancy Krieble, 2001.48
Like his mentor Willard Metcalf, Hoffman was drawn to the neoclassical facade of the Griswold House. For each artist, this down-at-the-heels mansion was a place full of remembered pleasures and personal associations. Hoffman wisely chose not to echo Metcalf's famous 1906 painting May Night, a romantic, moonlit view of the house that brought Metcalf great acclaim. Rather, Hoffman stakes his own ground with a perspective that connects the house to the everyday world. A veil of scraggly shrubs partially screens the portico and undercuts the formality of the facade. The house appears well worn, as if lived in for generations by a family whose values revolve around continuity and stability.
Walter Griffin
United States, 1861-1935
oil on artist's board
Florence Griswold Museum. Gift of The Hartford Steam Boiler Inspection and Insurance Company, 2002.1.61
Although Griffin was born and died in Portland, Maine, he spent the majority of his working career in Hartford, Connecticut. After study in France in the 1880s, Griffin came to know Childe Hassam and Willard Metcalf who introduced him to Old Lyme. A stalwart member of the Old Lyme art colony in the early years of the twentieth century, Griffin contributed a painted panel to the famous dining room at the boardinghouse run by Florence Griswold. The humid atmosphere of Old Lyme proved to be particularly conducive to Griffin's palette and trademark brushwork.
Frederick Childe Hassam
United States, 1859-1935
oil on cigar box lid
Florence Griswold Museum. Gift of The Hartford Steam Boiler Inspection and Insurance Company, 2002.1.69
Descended from an old New England family, Hassam inherited his father's interest in history, genealogy, and collecting antiques well before this hobby became a popular pastime. It is telling that the future artist first dabbled with a brush while sitting in an old coach that carried the Marquis de Lafayette through New England on his tour of 1824­25. Hassam, like many artists of his generation, traveled to France for instruction in the 1880s, and came to understand the importance of country life to the creative spirit. Upon return he frequently traveled by train and steamer to popular summer communities and focused his attention on hoary old houses, proud congregational churches, and pastoral landscapes. This view of the news depot at Cos Cob is rare for Hassam. Although he was known to paint trains and railroad bridges from time to time, he (and his clients) preferred the timelessness of colonial architecture.
Ernest Lawson
United States, 1873-1939
oil on canvas
Florence Griswold Museum. Gift of The Hartford Steam Boiler Inspection and Insurance Company, 2002.1.84
As a young man at the Art Students League in the early 1890s, Lawson came under the influence of the popular teacher John Twachtman who brought his young student to Connecticut. Lawson's distinctive impressionist brushstroke is readily apparent in Connecticut Landscape. He placed strongly contrasting strokes side by side, challenging the viewer to blend them optically. The effect of shimmering movement, or "crushed jewels," as one critic called it, makes it difficult to discern the distinction between sparkling water and sunlight glinting off of the foreground grasses. This vibrating sensation is also seen in the late work of the French impressionist Alfred Sisley, whom Lawson met while studying abroad.
Willard Metcalf
United States, 1858-1925
oil on canvas
Florence Griswold Museum. Gift of The Hartford Steam Boiler Inspection and Insurance Company, 2002.1.92
Metcalf first visited Old Lyme in 1905, on the recommendation of his friend Childe Hassam. At that moment he was in the midst of what he called his "renaissance," having rededicated himself to painting from nature. This body of work, consisting of landscapes from up and down the New England coast, was critically well received and he was on the verge of financial success as well. Throughout the 1906 season spent at Florence Griswold's boardinghouse, Metcalf worked steadily, took students, and enjoyed the time spent outdoors collecting bird eggs and fishing.
Leonard Ochtman
United States, 1854-1934
LANDSCAPE, undated
oil on canvas
Florence Griswold Museum. Gift of The Hartford Steam Boiler Inspection and Insurance Company, 2002.1.100
Ochtman's vision of the Connecticut landscape took shape in Cos Cob as he negotiated a style between the Barbizon, tonalist, and impressionist approaches. The area was already a choice location for artists such as J. Alden Weir and John Twachtman, who found its proximity to New York City and the scenic views of Long Island Sound and the Mianus River appealing. Ochtman flourished in the cultural climate of art colonies like Cos Cob. As a young man his formal training was limited, bypassing art school. A formative trip to Europe in 1885 introduced him to the plein-air style of painting commonly practiced by artists on their summer sojourns out of Europe's art centers. He progressed rapidly toward an individual style once he came in closer contact with colleagues, whether in New York City or the more pastoral settings of rural New England.
Henry Ward Ranger
United States, 1858-1916
oil on canvas
Florence Griswold Museum. Purchase, 1976.5
Remembered today as the founder of the Lyme Art Colony in 1899, the tonalist Henry Ward Ranger was an extraordinary figure, with all the facets of a rough-cut jewel. He was, in equal measure, an artist who enjoyed extensive success in his own day (the New York Times referred to him as "the dean of American landscape"), an entertaining if dogmatic writer (one friend said his views were "fixed and seldom changed"), a talented musician, a charismatic leader of other artists, and a tastemaker whose opinions collectors valued. Though conservative in his art, Ranger was progressive in business and in philanthropy. Ranger led efforts to build the first studio cooperative in New York, and upon his death, in 1916, his will established the Ranger Fund, which, over the ensuing decades, enabled museums to purchase hundreds of paintings by contemporary artists.
Edward F. Rook
United States, 1870-1960
LAUREL, 1905-1910
oil on canvas
Florence Griswold Museum. Gift of The Hartford Steam Boiler Inspection and Insurance Company, 2002.1.117
Although his work was greatly esteemed by fellow artists of the Lyme Art Colony, Rook sold few works during his lifetime. Reclusive by nature, he was from a family of means and averse to promoting his own work. Rook never had a dealer, and regularly attached high prices to his paintings so they would not sell. Instead, he sent paintings to major exhibitions in America and abroad and received numerous awards and exhibition prizes. Laurel, for example, was shown in London, Cincinnati, Pittsburgh, New York, and San Francisco. Reportedly it took Rook two years to complete this ambitious painting. His painstaking methods are evident on the surface of the painting, in which the flowering laurel blossoms, encrusted with impasto, seem as solid and unmoving as the boulder nearby. Legend has it that he tied dyed cotton balls onto his subject to "extend" the blooming season in order to finish the painting.
John Henry Twachtman
United States, 1853-1902
BARNYARD, 1890-1900
oil on canvas
Florence Griswold Museum. Gift of The Hartford Steam Boiler Inspection and Insurance Company, 2002.1.142
The roughly handled earth tones and whites of Barnyard reinforce the connection between nature and domestic life in the country. Twachtman's wife, the artist Martha Scudder, is rendered monochro-matically, in a variation of the warm brown used for the roosters in the foreground. His daughter, a blur of white like the doves fluttering nearby, anchors the painting at its center. The effect of sunlight breaking through the overhead trees activates the barnyard itself, as well as the chalky white coop and vine-laden garden.
John Henry Twachtman
United States, 1853-1902
oil on canvas
Florence Griswold Museum. Gift of The Hartford Steam Boiler Inspection and Insurance Company, 2002.1.145
During the last decade of the nineteenth century, John Twachtman focused his attention on painting scenes of his farm in Greenwich, Connecticut. The Horseneck Brook, which ran through the property, as well as its falls and the hemlock pool it fed, appeared frequently in his paintings during this productive period. Work from this phase is markedly different from his paintings of the previous two decades, when he was under the influence of Frank Duveneck, creating tonalist-inspired images with muted colors and vigorous brushwork. In Greenwich his painterly impasto and high-key color schemes visually indicate his coming to terms with impressionism, a style he had resisted for years.
Clark Greenwood Voorhees
United States, 1871-1933
oil on canvas
Florence Griswold Museum. Gift of The Hartford Steam Boiler Inspection and Insurance Company, 2002.1.150
Clark Voorhees was among the earliest artists to visit Old Lyme, eventually suggesting the locale to his good friend Henry Ward Ranger. A consummate outdoorsman, Voorhees took frequent bicycling and sailing trips, which brought him to the region where he eventually settled in 1903. Prior to making his home in Lyme, he studied at the Art Students League in New York and at the Académie Julian in Paris. His frequent excursions brought him into contact with artist colonies at Barbizon in France, Laren in The Netherlands, Peconic on Long Island in New York, and the newly formed colony at Cos Cob. In later years he revealed skepticism about colony life, writing, "At first they're made up of a few good men. Then the floaters and hangers-on come in and spoil everything."
Everett L. Warner
United States, 1877-1963
oil on canvas
Florence Griswold Museum. Gift of the Trustees in Honor of Jeffrey Andersen, 2001.47
Warner became friends with a number of the Lyme artists -- William Chadwick, Harry Hoffman, and Arthur Spear, among others -- through their shared study at the Art Students League in New York. In 1903 Warner went to Paris to study at the Académie Julian and, while there, shared a flat with Hoffman and Spear. Eventually, and perhaps inevitably, Warner came to Old Lyme in 1909 and stayed at the Griswold House. Warner delighted in the company of Florence Griswold and his fellow artists. Winter on the Lieutenant River, painted from the edge of Miss Florence's property, captures the damp cold of coastal New England with chalky tones of violet and cobalt blue. The scene is remarkably similar today, even to the detail of the partially submerged rocks in the foreground.
Thomas Nason
United States, 1889-1971
wood engraving on paper
Florence Griswold Museum. Fletcher Collection
Purchase, 1989.14
Called the "poet engraver of New England," Nason specialized in a regionalist vision that found great popularity when employed as illustrations for well-known authors such as William Cullen Bryant, Henry David Thoreau, and, most famously, Robert Frost. Born in Massachusetts and originally a businessman, Nason turned to wood engraving in 1921. He purchased an abandoned farm in Lyme in the 1930s and developed a reputation based upon his mastery of chiaroscuro engraving, a difficult process that required several plates, each dedicated to a specific color.
Thomas Nason
United States, 1889-1971
copper engraving on paper
Florence Griswold Museum. Gift of Mr. Roger Martin, 1991.7
Nason's reputation as a printmaker flourished in an era that placed great stock in regional identity. Painters of national reputation such as Thomas Hart Benton and John Steuart Curry married realism with a modernist sensibility to create a distinctly American idiom in the mid-twentieth century. Nason's precise, yet detached visual narrative of the built environment in New England placed him in ready dialogue with this new regional sensibility.
Everett L. Warner
United States, 1877-1963
oil on canvas
Florence Griswold Museum. Gift of Hannah Coffin Smith in honor of her father, Winthrop Coffin, 2000.2
In the early morning hours of July 3, 1907, Old Lyme's Congregational Church mysteriously burned to the ground. The beautiful meetinghouse, designed by Samuel Belcher and built in 1817, was the town's most prized building and an iconic image for the artists to paint. Childe Hassam's celebrated series of views of the church -- done between 1903 and 1906 -- did much to popularize the colony and prompted other artists, such as Charles Ebert and Everett Warner, to try their hand at this subject. With the help of many of the Lyme artists, the church was rebuilt by 1910. The Village Church portrays the newly built church from a discrete distance so that one is not aware of the newness of the clapboarding or the loss of the elms that once surrounded it. Like Hassam, Warner emphasizes the timelessness of the building's classical form over the details of its recent rebirth.
LYME ARTISTS, circa 1935
archival film featuring painters George Bruestle (United States, 1872-1939) and Edward Volkert (United States, 1871-1935)
5:00 minutes
Courtesy of the Florence Griswold Museum, Old Lyme, Connecticut
In the summer of 1999, two 16-mm film canisters labeled "Lyme Artists" were found in the basement of the Old Lyme home of Mary Griswold Steube, a longtime local resident who had recently died. The vintage film revealed 25 silent minutes of Lyme and Old Lyme during the early 1930s.
George Bruestle and Edward Volkert are two Connecticut impressionist artists depicted in this five-minute version of the film. Both artists typify the popular practice of plein-air painting, or painting outdoors. Bruestle preferred the landscape of the Connecticut countryside and routinely employed his portable easel outside of his home and studio, which bordered the picturesque Eight Mile River in Lyme.
Volkert is perhaps best known for his landscape paintings and bucolic scenes, his trademark subjects being cattle and plowmen. Here he enhances that reputation as he is shown first in his studio, surrounded by a myriad of bovine paintings, and then later on in the field painting his subjects from life.


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