Friday, September 10, 2010

The Florence Griswold Museum

May Night, a painting of the Florence Griswold House in Old Lyme, Connecticut, by Willard Metcalf, from 1906, now in the Corcoran Gallery of Art.

Over Labor Day Weekend TD and I celebrated our 25th anniversary together in a sweet and memorable visit to Guilford, Connecticut. On Saturday we drove with my parents to nearby Old Lyme. We stopped first at a big antique store there and had a nice lunch on the edge of the Lieutenant River at the Morning Glory Cafe. Then we headed to the Florence Griswold Museum. TD and I once took Jane to this museum when she was younger but hadn't been back in several years.

By the 1890's, Miss Florence Griswold, whose father had been a sea captain, inherited her big 1817 late-Georgian-style family home. Single and nearly 50 years old, she took in artist boarders to pay her bills. Thus the house became a center for American Impressionists, including Childe Hassam and Henry Ward Ranger. The house is now part of the campus of the Florence Griswold Musuem.

The visitor starts first at the Krieble Gallery, a modern building completed in 2002 which houses temporary exhibitions.
Looking at American art:

The gallery is on the side of the Lieutenant River. I liked this balcony off the gallery – a nice place work.

The lawn slopes down to the river.

It was a beautiful John Constable day.

Back up the hill, a trellis leads to the garden.

Florence Griswold was an avid gardener whose designs have been faithfully recreated. She had two gardens for perennial flowers, one for roses, and one for herbs and vegetables. Unlike the more formal gardens of the Victorian era, her gardens were meant to look natural and untamed, and they are now bursting with old-fashioned country plants like hollyhocks, phlox and delphinium.

At the main house, the visitor enters through the porch door into the front hall. I like the old house because it reminds me of, you guessed it, 611.

This painting by Willard Metcalf from 1914 caught my eye. It depicts his wife and daughter enjoying a summer afternoon in Connecticut. The wicker furniture, wood floor, long curtains and French doors opening out to the garden beyond all capture a relaxing style. This painting reminds me of the photograph of the Tsarina of Russia with her daughters.

The style is natural and easy and comfortable. I like the simple white cotton dress too. Coincidentally there was a visitor at the museum dressed similarly. An older woman with short grey hair was wearing an airy, antiquey white cotton dress with a streak of beige embroidery near the bottom. Over her shoulders she wore a maroon paisley challis wrap. It was like Jane Austen style in 2010. Not a look you behold every day, and she completely pulled it off. Maybe she was an artist. I loved seeing it.


Anonymous said...

The Florence Griswold museum is just amazing. Ms. Griswold was a bohemian pioneer. "May Night" is such a haunting painting. I was reading this morning about Le Grand Griswold, a socialite who was shot by a friend's driver in the early 1900's...I wonder if he is related to Ms. Griswold?

Anyway, I love your blog and it is one of my favorites! Keep up the excellent work.


Unknown said...

Bart and TD,
Congratulations on 25 years together. Thanks for introducing me to the Griswold Museum.
Continued happiness and keep on bloggin",

Bart Boehlert said...

Kevin and Barbara, Thank you!
Kevin, Griswold is a big family name in Connecticut, there is the Griswold Inn in Essex, Ct., for example. I had not heard that story about Le Grand.

ArchitectDesign™ said...

Congrats on 25 years! I hadn't heard of this museum and will have to add it to my list, it sounds fascinating! I love that front hall.