OLD LYME, CT.- The Florence Griswold Museum in Old Lyme, Connecticut, presents a new exhibition entitled The Artistic Heritage of Connecticut: Highlights from the Hartford Steam Boiler Collection, on view October 27, 2007 through April 20, 2008. Connecticut has long been a center for the visual arts in America. Even before the Revolutionary War, artists captured the likenesses of the colonys prosperous inhabitants. After independence, painters depicted the states proud citizens and employed their brushes to celebrate the new republic through its landscape. While the states artistic heritage has, in many ways, paralleled the larger story of American art, its artists have responded specifically to Connecticuts independent spirit, embodied in the Connecticut Yankee, and to the character of its landscape. In doing so, they helped to shape an identity for New England that lingers in the American mind. The exhibition is sponsored by The Hartford Steam Boiler Inspection and Insurance Company.
Curator Amy Kurtz Lansing chose over 40 works from the Hartford Steam Boiler Collection, which was donated to the Museum by the company in 2001, to tell the story of Connecticuts role in American art history. Some are old favorites, like Ammi Phillips Portrait of Katherine Salisbury Newkirk Hickok (ca. 1825) and Frederic E. Churchs The Charter Oak at Hartford (ca. 1846). These works illustrate the value that provincial art patrons placed on unembellished depictions of themselves as well as Americans growing pride in the young nations history.
Some works, such as View on the River, Farmington (1866) by Marie Theresa Gorsuch Hart and East Rock, New Haven (1862) by George H. Durrie, suggest that, even as industrialization progressed during the mid-nineteenth century, many landscape painters still envisioned Connecticut as a pastoral paradise, helping to cement the image of southern New England as old-fashioned and rural.
Connecticuts proximity to two major centers of American art, New York and Boston, made it a popular place for artists to visit. Works by Childe Hassam and John H. Twachtman, depicting Connecticuts farms and towns under varying qualities of light, demonstrate the states draw. Not only was there a vibrant art scene in the coastal colonies of Old Lyme and Cos Cob but in Hartford as well, where the modern painter Milton Avery began his career, said curator Amy Kurtz Lansing.
In addition to these highlights, the exhibition includes several recent acquisitions that complement the holdings of the Hartford Steam Boiler Collection. Paintings by two Hartford artists, genre specialist Richard Law Hinsdale and landscape artist Charles DeWolf Brownell, further enrich the story of Connecticuts artistic heritage. Brownells watercolors come from a visual diary he kept to record his observations. A protégé of Frederic E. Church, Brownell shared his mentors interest in nature and travel. Joshuas Seat demonstrates his fascination with both local landmarks and the texture of the rocky outcropping on the Connecticut River in Lyme, which he sketched in August 1858. Kurtz Lansing said, We are particularly pleased that these new additions to the Florence Griswold Museums collection have built upon the Hartford Steam Boilers extraordinary legacy of collecting works of national importance by Connecticut artists.