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The Home of American Impressionism
An Art Lover's Dream

Florence Griswold House

It is in Old Lyme, a serene inlet at the mouth of the Connecticut River, where early 20th century Impressionist artists from New York and Boston sought refuge from the trials of city life. Much of the character that drew painters to the area over a century ago remains today. The Congregational Church, made famous by Childe Hassam's paintings, still stands at the end of Lyme Street. Meandering roads and wooded lanes open to picturesque vistas, any of which could have been a painting spot immortalized on canvas by Willard Metcalf or William Chadwick.

Now the town also offers an array of charming art galleries, specialty stores, and antique shops. Delightful inns cater to visitors' needs and restaurants tempt their palates. At the heart of town's artistic legacy is the Florence Griswold Museum, the "Home of American Impressionism."

"Miss Florence" and
her cats

A Connecticut Lady and her Bohemian Boys

How did a generation of American artists wind up in Old Lyme? Besides the fact that there was an abundance of subject matter to choose from, the artists found perfect accommodations with the kindred bohemian spirit of Florence Griswold. Left with little means to maintain her family home, "Miss Florence" had opened her doors to boarders in 1899. Artists began to appear and over the next decade turned her stately 1817 house into the home of the Lyme Art Colony, where noted names in American Impressionism created some of their best works.

The artists left Miss Florence, and generations of art lovers, something very special—paintings on the walls and doors of the Griswold House. The tradition was imported from hostelries in the French art colonies of Barbizon, Giverny, and Pont-Aven. The most breathtaking example is found in the dining room, with 40 paintings by over 30 artists, a complete chronicle of the art colony movement in America.

William Chadwick, On the Porch

A New Center for American Art

Today, visitors not only enjoy touring the historic home and Miss Florence's gardens; they spend their time viewing paintings by America's premier artists in the Museum's new riverfront gallery, with changing exhibitions that invite return visits. The new Krieble Gallery has propelled the Museum into a national destination. The recently opened 10,000 square foot gallery building by Centerbrook Architects adds a twentieth century perspective with three skylit galleries flanked by striking, curvilinear metal wings overlooking Miss Florence's garden and the Lieutenant River.

Lilian Wescott Hale, Woman Resting

The Museum has one of the foremost collections of Impressionism in America, with major works by Childe Hassam and John Henry Twachtman, and the largest collection of Willard Metcalf paintings anywhere. Changing exhibitions offer audiences the finest American art dating from the late 18th century to the present.julesfay@hotmail.com


For more information, please go to www.flogris.org.

* Photos courtesy of Florence Griswold House.

 

(Updated: 07/01/08 HC)


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