Category Archives: Arts & Letters

Florence Griswold Museum in Old Lyme: Home of American Impressionism

HassamSummerEvening

(Childe Hassam, Summer Evening, 1886. Florence Griswold Museum: www.flogris.org)

 The comings and goings on Lyme Street today in no way compare to the movement there in 1841 when Captain Robert Griswold bought the imposing, late-Georgian style mansion for his bride.

A lot more than the traffic count has changed since Capt. Griswold acquired the home. After prosperity turned to penury for the Griswolds, the home became first a school and then under his daughter “Miss Florence”, a boarding house, thus beginning a journey that would earn it a place in history.

The home was frequented by artists, including giants in the American Impressionist school of painting. Since 1947 the stately home has welcomed the public as the Florence Griswold Museum. It became a National Historic Landmark in 1993.

Just as the 19th century was to give way to the 20th, the prominent landscape artist Henry Ward Ranger arrived there. With the arrival of Childe Hassam four years later, the focus shifted from Tonalism to Impressionism. Eventually, this idyllic Connecticut location became known as the “American Giverny”.

Woodrow Wilson visited with his artist wife, Ellen Axson Wilson, and family on four occasions, staying in the guesthouse. It was during his 1910 visit that he issued a statement that he would run for governor of New Jersey. Two years later he went on to become the 28th President of the United States and led the nation in WW-I.

Whether visitors come to look at the historic house, view the collection there or in the 10,000 sq. ft. Robert and Nancy Krieble Gallery, or just breathe in the beauty and marvel at the work of art nature created there, it is a journey worth taking.

http://flogris.org/woodrow-wilson/

The Boxcar children have their own museum in Putnam

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The allure of the open road has long been a source of fascination in American literature and life. Writers from Walt Whitman to Jack Kerouac have given voice to the longing felt by many to strike out in search of something new, something better, something different.

For Gertrude Chandler Warner that open road took the form of the railroad that ran past the house in 19th century Putnam where she grew up. That experience, combined with a good imagination and a love of children, led her to produce an immensely popular series of books, The Boxcar Children written for those in grades 2-6.

She died in 1979, but the staying power of her children’s literary franchise is such that in 2012 the School Library Journal named her original book as one of the “Top 100 Chapter Books” of all time. The National Education Association, citing a 2007 poll, named it as one of its “Teachers’ Top 100 Books for children”.

Since 2004 devoted followers also have made their way to her hometown tucked up in the state’s northeastern “Quiet Corner” to go through a museum devoted to her and her literary offerings.  Appropriately enough the museum is located in a real boxcar not far from her girlhood home and the school where she would later teach first grade.

Before you visit that precious bit of Americana, celebrating its 10th anniversary this year, take a look at more about Gertrude Chandler Warner and her contributions to firing the imaginations of countless young children.

Slater Memorial Museum at Norwich Free Academy

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You would be hard pressed to find another museum in such a modest space that covers as much ground, touches on so much history and spans the globe in both history, art and, as it proclaims, wonder. It was founded in 1886 by William A. Slater in memory of his father, John, one of the pioneers of the Industrial Revolution in America.

Your voyage through time, space and art forms, begins with a dazzling display of plaster casts, some 150 important examples done by the masters and replicated from original works. These include examples of Egyptian, Greek, Roman and Italian Renaissance sculptures.

Also, there are examples of Asian art, African art and sections featuring Connecticut artists of the 20th century, as well as an exhibition of art and industry in the 19th century.

Shifting gears and displays, visitors can walk through some pretty nifty collections that tell the story of life in the city and the region over three centuries.  There’s the small cannon from the Revolutionary War era that was dredged from the city’s harbor. The armaments industry made Norwich famous, especially during the Civil War, as did the grandfather clocks, fine cutlery and other products made here.  Displays of all those and more tell the story of a place where innovation and industriousness made Norwich a center of commerce and renown.

The Slater www.slatermuseum.org  is a gift that still dazzles. It is located on the campus of Norwich Free Academy, itself a unique institution in Connecticut history.