Wednesday, August 11, 2010

FLORENCE GRISWOLD MUSEUM, LYME ACADEMY OF THE ARTS

With Jim's grand daughter, Jocelyn, I visited the Florence Griswold Museum, a marvelous fine arts exhibit. One room emphasized impressionists, the other with some abstract, mixed media and more contemporary paintings that concentrate local Connecticut artists or themes. But, the star of the show was Florence Griswold, pictured above with her harp. (Painted by Alphonse Jongers.) Her home was one of the first artists colonies, started by happenstance. Financial woes, in fact. She was left with the care of this lovely estate on twelve acres turned it into a boarding house. One of her boarders was Henry Ward Ranger, a fellow who attracted other artist boarders. They formed an amazing arts colony at Lyme.
He painted a door panel in her house. Eventually many doors, panels above the fireplace and every wall in the house was filled with the work of some of the soon to become most prestigious artists of the day.
This lovely piece, for instance, is set on Florence's porch. Here, you can walk on that very porch, and see the landscape as the artists viewed it in the early 1900's.
The paintings are wonderful, but the charm of the house, (you can see various furnishings in the paintings) excited me by their warmth and humble comforts.
This sunlit room with a pair of slippers by the fireplace..
...or the just used table, with drawings strewn about...
...a spot to sit and discard your shoes on a warm afternoon.
  Florence's house showed love and comfort. Rooms with niches for a game of checkers  in one corner while someone else was painting by the window and another sat in a chair reading or sewing. None of it would have been possible without Florence's perseverance and kindly attitude. They drank, sometimes too much. They had deeply philosophical views, they rollicked and played, and worked. She often accepted a painting in payment for board. She picked the flowers and cooked the meals. She enjoyed them and they flourished under her care, while she struggled to keep the place financially afloat. She died in 1937 and there were four mortgages on the place. The artists pooled resources and bought Florence's home-lucky for us. Here are paintings from Woodhull Adams, William Chadwick, Childe Hassam, William Robinson, Harry Hoffman, Robert Nisbet, Will Howe Foote, and many others.
The grounds have this huge "ramble" called stickworks produced by Patrick Daughtery. The gardens are lovely, filled with vegetables, herbs and flowers as Florence would have done. Other buildings are open to explore. Treat yourself to a great day and visit this delightful place. For more info:
http://www.flogris.org/thestory/missflorence.html

Since the Lyme Academy of Arts was just a few blocks distant, we decided to visit there, as well. Instead of one gallery, we found a newly accredited college (since l996) with an alumni gallery, student galleries, which are constantly changing, and collected works of some former students.  Almost the first picture I took was this teasing painting of a surreptitious photographer.
"Clean," claimed our hostess Joanna Donaghue. Staff sort of takes a firehouse approach to the studios in summer since the student studios are like a personal bedroom. They can decorate any way they like. Some wall paper, others just splatter their walls. All are individual. One sculptor, Brittany Shelton was still working during the summer. Her comment as she allowed us in: "Thank goodness, I just cleaned."
 In a whirlwind of delightful, informative chatter, Joanna moved us through this wonderful academy and gave us a basic rundown then left us to wander by ourselves.
The academy's strength is its live figure teaching, sculpting and painting. Students learn every bone and muscle in the human body then expand from there. Joanna bought this piece from a former student and it hangs in her office. (You can tell I lost my notes. Don't have the artist's name. Its Doug something?)
This piece is from the alumni gallery.

These are large line drawings, full human sized student pieces. All students have to do an assignment like this.
A student work on a head, and an ear. Also typical assignments.
Then, at some point, when you paint, a person actually looks like it moves the way a body really moves. This piece was from the student gallery.
There were many great work spaces here, conference rooms, media rooms, welding shop, sculpting and painting areas. They learn how to apply patinas. For anyone desiring a top rate education in the figure, this is the place to be. For more photos:
http://picasaweb.google.com/1579penn/81010FlorenceGriswoldLymeAcademyOfArts#

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