Florence Griswold Museum Hosts Renowned Collection of American Landscapes
OLD LYME, CONN.- Through September 18, the Florence Griswold Museum in Old Lyme hosts an exhibition of over 40 American landscape paintings from the Parrish Art Museum in Southampton, New York. American Landscapes: Treasures from the Parrish Art Museum traces the evolution of American art from its roots in an emerging national landscape tradition to the liberating influences of European modernism. Some of the artists represented include William Merritt Chase, William Stanley Haseltine, Theodore Robinson, John Henry Twachtman, John Marin, John Sloan, Ernest Lawson, Fairfield Porter, and Alex Katz. Of special interest is Lyme Art Colony painter Childe Hassam, whose view of the Church at Old Lyme (1906) will be featured. “We are delighted at the opportunity to present one of Hassam’s legendary paintings of the Congregational church, which put Old Lyme on the map artistically when he exhibited them here and in New York during the early years of the colony,” said Curator Amy Kurtz Lansing. “Partnering with the Parrish has allowed us to exhibit one of the treasures of American Impressionism.”
At the beginning of the nineteenth-century, artists of the Hudson River School were among the first to record the “New Eden” that was the North American continent. Their framing of the view into the distance, often with a solitary figure in the foreground, literally invented a new way of seeing. By the middle of the century, the border of the wilderness had been pushed farther west and industrialization had begun to transform the topography of the eastern United States. A painting like Samuel Colman’s Farmyard, East Hampton (ca. 1880) evokes a nostalgia for the vanishing rural scene.
Artists of the post-Civil War period frequently traveled to Europe to study. The exhibition includes work by American artists who spent extended periods abroad in the 1880s and 1890s, William Stanley Haseltine, William Lamb Picknell, and Theodore Robinson among them. Lessons learned abroad were brought home by such artists as William Merritt Chase, John Henry Twachtman, and Childe Hassam. Their work will be compared and contrasted with that of their colleagues who remained overseas. After their stays abroad, many artists returned to the United States with much enthusiasm and a new mode of expression. The brighter palettes, more vibrant brushwork and intimate themes of Impressionism began to appear. Both Hassam and Twachtman translated Impressionism to an American context, placing a greater emphasis on personal responses to nature than their French colleagues. Twachtman’s nearly abstract rendering of Horseshoe Falls, Niagara presents it as a natural phenomenon rather than a national icon and Hassam’s selection of subjects such as Old Lyme’s Congregational church reflect his deep affection for New England architecture. Artists also continued their experience in the European artist communities by establishing their own art colonies outside metropolitan areas like New York and Boston. To Hassam, Old Lyme was emblematic of America’s rich heritage. He arrived there in 1903 to stay in the boardinghouse of Florence Griswold (now the Florence Griswold Museum). Hassam depicted Old Lyme’s most famous edifice, the First Congregational Church seven times.
Modernist painters in the earlier decades of the twentieth century, such as John Marin, John Sloan, and Ernest Lawson, continued a landscape tradition that expanded to include urban settings. American Landscapes concludes with a particularly strong representation of artists of the second half of the century, such as Fairfield Porter, Jane Wilson, Jane Freilicher, and Sheridan Lord, who were drawn to the beauty of Long Island’s East End. This exhibition, with its progression of American landscape painting from the Hudson River School to the present, affirms the historical importance and ongoing vitality of landscape painting in the history of American art.